In August 2012, a rumor started circulating on the Internet, that there had been many uninsured cars towed in Dallas. The rumor was founded on a recently passed ordinance by the City of Dallas, Texas, according to which if the Police pull over a car and the driver cannot prove the vehicle is insured, the car will get towed. Following the impound of the vehicle, the owner cannot retrieve their car without providing evidence that the car has been insured. The law was prompted into existence by the very high percentage of uninsured cars in Dallas County. According to data available for August 2012, some 25 per cent of cars in the county were not covered, making Dallas County the number one ranking urban county, in terms of non-covered vehicles.
False rumors about uninsured cars towed in Dallas
While the above figures have been verified with Dallas City authorities, the rumors that uninsured cars towed from the streets of the city had filled up the impounds were not entirely true. The law does, indeed, state, that police officers have the right to apply the law as they see fit: they can either impound the cars and charge the driver a fine (from $350 for first offenders to $1,000 to repeat offenders), or can choose not to sanction the lack of insurance at all. Repeat offenders who repeatedly fail to have their vehicles insured can also be arrested, according to the same law.
However, there was never such a thing as a mass action to have uninsured cars towed in Dallas, as numerous chain emails have claimed. One version of the email claimed that after only 9 days of the law coming into effect, the impound lots ran by the city had filled up. The truth is that 256 uninsured cars towed within the first 9 days of the ordinance coming into force did make it to the impound lots. Still, this doesn’t mean the lots were full then – or at any point after the law was passed. Another false claim is that 80 per cent of the uninsured cars towed were driven by illegal immigrants. This is a blatantly fake piece of information, since one does not have to be a legal resident in Texas in order to buy car insurance or claim their car back from the impound lot. Furthermore, the police in Dallas never ask for residency papers when they pull motorists over for traffic violation.
The current status of the law to have uninsured cars towed
In time, Dallas County authorities came to the conclusion that enforcing the ordinance proved more difficult than they had ever imagined. For one thing, many motorists purchase false insurance cards, while others simply pay for a month of insurance, receive the proof (in the form of an ID card) and then discontinue their payments. What’s more, contrary to the claim made by the same emails cited above, the ordinance did not help car crash rates in Dallas County to drop by 47 per cent. As a matter of fact, in 2009 – which is the first year the law was enforced – the number of car accidents actually increased.