Dear PoPville – Is this Legal?

“Dear PoPville,

This is on 14th b/w Constitution and Jefferson around 4:30pm. This car was parked illegally because of the no parking b/w 4 and 6:30pm. The tow truck had the car secured but I imagine that the emergency break was on or something else that prevented the truck from towing it away, so they were attempting to break into the car to resolve their issue.

Can parking people, or even police for that matter, break into someones car to move it? I’m not talking about parking in front of a fire hydrant…”

48 Comment

  • I say let them do it. I have always wanted off-duty snow plows to barrel straight along those no-parking lanes every morning and evening, pushing every illegally-parked car – including the ones with people sitting in them – along with them.

    • Me, too. The last two mornings on the 1900 block of Park Rd, specifically. Two morons had traffic backed up all over Mt. Pleasant and probably back past 16th St.

      • There’s signs like every 5 feet along there about moving cars by 7 am… People/tow companies need to get their shit together there.

        • Yeah, I know. I called 311/City Services at 8:30 and was told there were three tow requests already submitted. The guy’s computer froze so I didn’t get any info about when the first was filed or why the cars hadn’t been towed yet, but the city two trucks should just make a practice of driving by there every morning. Lots of money to be made.

  • Yes, they can. Happens everyday, all the time. Usually to remove e-brake.

  • Tow the back wheels!

  • Whether it’s legal or not, DDOT & MPD tow trucks routinely break into cars, usually to remove the parking brake, place the car on neutral, or straighten the front wheels. Often this results in damage to the door or window seals, but I’ve seen them completely shatter out a drivers window (I assume by accident). There’s probably a process for reimbursement, but I imagine it’s slow and painful as anything else dc gov related.

  • It’s legal. DC Code 22-1341 (Unlawful entry of a motor vehicle) gives an exemption to District employees in connection with their official duties and “A tow crane operator who has valid authorization from the District government or from the property owner on whose property the motor vehicle is illegally parked.” Plus, that may be federal property and with all the museums and federal buildings near there I’m sure they have their own laws allowing it.

  • I once watched a fire truck responding to a call wait for about 60 seconds behind a double-parked car that was totally blocking the truck. A fire fighter jumped out, broke the window, started the car somehow, and “parked” it totally askew, with one wheel on the curb, potentially damaging the car even more. Don’t leave your car double parked!

    • I feel like doing this several times a day. DC is the first of the many places I’ve lived where people seem to think they are entitled to stop their cars in the travel lane of a busy street and sit there (sometimes occupied, sometimes not) if it happens to be convenient for them to run into CVS, chat with a friend on the sidewalk, or wait on someone to run some errands.

      • +1 I’m so tired of this crap on 14th street in front of DCUSA

        • & on 9th ST just south of Florida. & on NH at Sweet Mango… So dangerous.

          • Good god Sweet Mango. WTF is it about the patronage there that evokes such brazen double-parking? Until I got used to it, I was always unpleasantly surprised with the OHMYGODTWOLANESARENOWONE moment while driving home.

      • Amen–this culture of stopping your car anywhere in the middle of a busy street, forcing other drivers to drive into oncoming traffic, needs to stop.

        • +1

          I’ve lived across this great nation of ours and have never seen this anywhere other than DC. On our residential street, even when there is parking, cars will routinely stop in the lane, turn on their hazards, turn off the engine, and head inside.

          This and the “DC U-turn” (making a u-turn any where you see fit if you think you have enough time/room) make driving here miserable. Thank goodness for Metro and bikes!

          • People drive to Georgia Avenue just to make U-turns. It seems to be some sort of contest – how quickly it can be done and most importantly, without looking for bikes or pedestrians.

          • Since the police do nothing to stop the mid-block U Turns and the double parking, people just do what they can get away with.

            If Kathy Lanier told the MPD to enforce traffic laws, this would eventually stop. Instead, DC cops are too “busy” crusing around to do anything except talk on their cell phones while driving.

        • Police seem to do this more than anyone else, complete disregard to traffic flow just to stand around and chat with their buddies.

          • Sometimes the police are the ones blocking the lanes while they sit in their car doing something on their laptop. A-holes.

      • I agree, DC is the only place in the USA I have seen people just cut their engine wherever they feel like it, including in the road. However, I’ve lived in 4 developing countries where it was widespread. Same in grocery store parking lots, tons of people here park in the fire lane near the door because they don’t want to walk to the door – just like Romania…

        • We have a huge number of ex-Third worlders among us in DC, and I’d attribute much of this behavior to that.

  • Mayor Quimby: “It’s decided: you can park in the handicapped space if you’re just going in for a pack of smokes and maybe a Pop-Tart for tomorrow.”

  • As long as there is no damage who cares.

  • It’s terrible for cyclists, too, as we’re forced to swerve into the middle of traffic. Again, right in front of DCUSA and the Tivoli Theater are hotspots for double/illegal parking. I say break in and tow ’em away!

    • Bike lanes on 11th and 14th Streets are considered perfect parking and delivery spaces by many. So much easier than that hard parallel parking space a few feet away, and great for speedy get-aways.

  • I am also in support of the traffic folks doing whatever it takes, including breaking windows, to deal with this sort of thing.

  • Also, I think traffic police should also be allowed to break out the windows of people who pull into intersections and block the box during rush hour.

    • I’ve always wanted to see pop-up spikes that appear when the light turns yellow…

      Sure it’d exacerbate the problem short-term, but I bet block-boxing would cease to be an issue within two weeks.

      • I would be in 100% favor of this if we can also put them in the crosswalks where there is a left turn arrow and peds cross anyway.

        I am looking at you, 14th and K and Vermont and K, NW.

  • Penn Ave inbound in Capitol Hill also terrible for this, in front of the Post Office. Often several cars double parked there, causing a big CF as cars realize they’re stuck, then swerve out into the middle lane. Taxis don’t even look, they just go for it. So dangerous. Why don’t the police move these people along? I don’t get it.

    • Huh? I live about four blocks from there and have never seen that problem. Usually there are several empty spaces along that strip at any given time.

  • Q Street on my way home from work is a pretty bad place for the double-park (blocking the bike lane I’m using) idiocy. Particularly around 15th and 16th, and it drives me insane.

    And while I’m thinking about it, twice when riding down 15th — in the SEPARATED bike lane — on a weekend, cars have been parked in my way. Like they thought those posts were to keep traffic from dinging their doors or something.

    Argh. It’s enough to make me want to start riding in golf shoes, so a swift kick to the door would do more than make my foot sore…

    Okay, barely related rant about parking in this city is over.

  • Nobody blinkers either…. I’ll never understand that one, as it requires next to no effort, avoids accidents and makes traffic flow better. I wonder how many hours I’ve spent behind people who decided to make a left across traffic without signalling.

  • Is it just me, or do a lot of people around here use their parking brakes in unnecessary situations? I’ve noticed a lot of people who learned how to drive in this area automatically pull up the brake whenever they park, whereas I was taught to use it only on a steep hill or something. In this situation the parking brake was not only unnecessary, but may have resulted in damages to the car when the police had to break in.

    • You mean like when parked? I’ve got a stick shift and always have so I have to use it but I admit, that I always use a parking brake. Seems the prudent thing to do as long as I don’t park in a rush hour tow zone (which is horrible for many reasons).

      • There’s nothing horrible about being parked in a rush hour tow zone, as long as you remember to move the car before rush hour.

    • Though I live in DC now, I learned to drive in N.VA, and it was part of our driver’s ed to put your parking brake on–and it was part of the test to get your driver’s license. My parents never did/do, so I don’t (except for the test, of course…), but a lot of my friends in high school did, because it’s how we were taught.

      • It must be a Northern Virginia thing. It wouldn’t occur to me to use the parking brake except on a steep hill, but my girlfriend who grew up in NoVA uses it all the time. I can’t tell you how many times she used the car before me and I started to drive off with the parking brake engaged.

    • Engaging the parking brake helps to prevent damage to the transmission.

  • What I love about the sad state of affairs in this city that that we need to put up signs that say “No Red Light Running…’Please'”. Seriously? Not only do we need to ask people not to run red lights we need to do it politely! Give me break. Another favorite is people double parked on 14th street downtown under a sign that reads “no double parking at any time”. And guess what the cops do when they see people double parked…nothing. I say hook’em!

  • The worst is when you are riding your bike down 14th and a cab driver going the other way suddenly decides to make a u-turn and park right in the bike lane.

  • I ride my bike there every day and most of the cars being towed are from out of town.
    On a related note, the city should allow parking in those lanes for some really high fee like $8 an hour during rush hour. Will be a win-win situation all around.

    • austindc

      That reminds me of something I read while earning a Sociology degree (back before I realized that a Sociology degree doesn’t exactly open a ton of doors). It was a case where some daycare had a problem with parents picking up their kids late. It drove them nuts. So they said, “if you’re late picking up your kids, there’s a $10 fine.” What happened? More parents were late picking up their kids! Parents interpreted the fine as permission to be late–essentially, that the daycare condoned the lateness, they just would charge for it. You could purchase the extra time.

      I wonder if this would happen in DC if we charged people extra to park in the rush hour lanes. I bet many people would be happy to pay $8 for an hour of extra parking in the morning. Perhaps there would be even more cars in the lane.

      I suppose this is why people quip that Sociology is the tedious pursuit of the obvious.

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