PASCO COUNTY, Florida – Pasco County Commissioners unanimously approved a new ordinance Tuesday that will protect consumers from aggressive towing outside bars and restaurants, in case they’ve had too may drinks and don’t want to drive home.
The ordinance mirrors a similar protection in Tampa that was highlighted in several 10Investigates stories on predatory towing. It effectively prohibits wreckers from patrolling and initiating tows in the parking lots of any bars or restaurants that serve alcohol, so patrons don't have to fear getting towed if they've had too many drinks to drive safely.
Business owners could still have a specific problem vehicle towed away upon request, but wrecker companies could not remove a vehicle without written permission from an establishment that serves alcohol between the hours of 9 p.m. and 11:59 a.m.
Pasco County becomes the first municipality to follow through on a challenge from 10News WTSP General Manager Elliott Wiser, calling on other communities to copy Tampa’s consumer- and safety-minded ordinance.
"It stands to benefit the consumers and it stands to benefit the people who are obviously taking responsibility for their own actions by...taking Uber, a taxi, or getting a ride home with a friend," said Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore, who introduced the ordinance. "It's not that we're rewarding them for being responsible; we're just not penalizing them for being responsible."
A look at other municipalities considering adopting the rules:
The very first community to express an interest in expanding Tampa's towing protections has been slow to actually take up the issue. The county's Public Transportation Commission (PTC) sent a letter to the county commission, suggesting they pass an identical ordinance to Tampa, but commissioners have yet to act.
The PTC also sent the letter to the two other cities in Hillsborough County: Plant City and Temple Terrace.
A Plant City spokesperson said "staff is currently researching this," while a Temple Terrace official told 10Investigates he wasn't sure if anyone in the city received the PTC's letter.
County commission chair Charlie Justice introduced the idea to his fellow commissioners in March, and the county attorney's office has been working on drafting ordinance language since then.
A county spokesperson said the draft is nearly done, and if approved, it would apply to all restaurants and bars across the county, including within city limits of Pinellas' 24 individual cities.
4/13/16: Another case of predatory towing in Tampa
3/29/16: Pinellas commissioners consider anti-towing ordinance
3/17/16: Tampa to crack down on predatory towing outside bars
2/25/16: Can Tampa Bay invent new ways to discourage DUIs?
2/24/16: Pasco now considering copying Tampa's ordinance
2/16/16: Hillsborough moves toward better tow laws
2/10/16: Pinellas officials want tow truck protections too
2/9/16: Refunds for tow victims, as Hillsborough eyes amnesty law
2/9/16: EDITORIAL: Other cities should copy Tampa
2/8/16: Tampa council calls for immediate tow fixes
2/7/16: Tow trucks penalizing drinkers who don't drive
1/25/16: Confronting predatory towing & how to get a refund if you're towed illegally
1/18/16: Failure to "move over" puts tow operators in danger