Houston extends pilot period for freeway crash towing program

I-45 Houston
Houston officials are trying to reduce wait times for freeway crash towing. (Nathan Colbert/Community Impact Newspaper)

Houston officials are trying to reduce wait times for freeway crash towing. (Nathan Colbert/Community Impact Newspaper)

A pilot program that aims to reduce wait times for towing after freeway accidents got an extension June 9.

Houston City Council approved a 6-month extension on the plan which allows members of the Houston Fire Department to call and send pictures and videos to an offsite police officer at the scene of a freeway accident.

When a 911 call is received for a traffic accident, typically the Houston Fire Department arrives at the scene first and waits for HPD to arrive and clear the incident. Under the pilot program, a police officer can remotely approve the towing of vehicles involved in freeway crashes instead of arriving on scene.

Houston motorists have reported waiting up to an hour to remove their vehicles from the site of a freeway crash, said Lt. Isaac Dupelchain of the Houston Police Vehicular Crimes Unit during a presentation to the Houston City Council Public Safety Committee Meeting.

“We’re dispatched to 10,000 crashes a year, and many of them are minor, but city ordinances require HPD to order vehicle removal from the freeway,” he said.


In ideal scenarios, officials said the program can reduce towing wait times to 10 minutes.

The Houston Galveston Area Council funds the entire project which costs about $200,000. If the city seeks to adopt the program after the pilot period, a cost-savings analysis will be conducted, according to city documents. The program was initially approved for a pilot period of six months from June to December 2020. It was extended in December 2020 and for a second time in June 2021 because reduced traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic hampered H-GAC’s efforts to measure the success of the program. The pilot area only includes freeways within Houston city limits.

District J Council Member Edward Pollard, a personal injury attorney, expressed concern over the program because he said it could complicate insurance matters. He voted against the extension.

“Although it sounds good on paper, in a practical sense, it has some unintended consequences,” Pollard said. “It's going to be very difficult for an officer to be able to determine fault when doing a virtual investigation. They're not going to see, in this case, if they are getting two different sides of the story and conflicting statements.”

Council Member Abbie Kamin, chair of the public safety committee, said drivers can still request that a police officer visit the scene in person to make a report.

“Residents can still, of course, request an officer come on to the scene and the fire department can as well. There are certain circumstances when HPD needs to be there,” she said.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


MOST RECENT

freedmens town houston
Freedmen’s Town named Houston’s first ‘Heritage District’

“It's so important for us to do everything we can to hold on to as much of that history and not lose it because it defines in large part who we are as a city, we have lost a lot but we have not lost it all,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

The Prescription Pop—made with Rittenhouse rye whiskey, Bar Spoons Dr. Pepper syrup, cherry bitters and Angostura bitters—is one of several craft cocktails on the menu at the new Daisy Buchanan Lounge in Montrose. (Courtesy Daisy Buchanan Lounge)
1920s-inspired Daisy Buchanan Lounge to open June 19 in Montrose

The new venture will offer craft cocktails and late night eats, while a bar area will boast a one-of-a-kind antique bar and a baby grand piano.

Harris County Pets facilitates pet adoptions, foster placements and more. (Courtesy Harris County Pets)
Harris County Pets temporarily waives adoption fees to control increase of population

Harris County Pets has exceeded its capacity to house its growing pet population, officials said.

Americans spent 44% more shopping on websites, including Amazon, in 2020 than in 2019. (Courtesy Amazon)
Surge in online shopping strains Houston’s distribution channels

Online spending in the U.S. was up 44% from 2019 to 2020, and transportation expert Bill Eisele said this uptick has put a strain on the region’s transportation system.

According to county officials, 40% of the $125 billion in damage caused by Hurricane Harvey took place within Harris County. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas General Land Office says it is 'not feasible' to request $750M in federal flood aid within 30 days

Houston-area officials ask for 30-day-dealine on the Texas General Land Office's formal request for $750 million in federal flood aid funding, but GLO says it is not possible.

Texas Central has signed a $16 billion contract with Webuild to lead the civil construction team that will build the train. (Rendering courtesy Texas Central)
Texas Central signs $16B construction contract for high-speed rail project

Texas Central could be one step closer to starting construction.

Russ Poppe, the Harris County Flood Control District executive director, will officially step down July 2 after nearly fifteen years in the position. (Courtesy Harris County Flood Control District)
Executive Director Russ Poppe announces resignation from Harris County Flood Control District

Harris County Flood Control District Executive Director Russ Poppe announced his resignation June 11.

Robert Mock headshot
Houston names new emergency center director

The center manages 911 calls and other emergency communications.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas issued a call for Texans to conserve energy June 14. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
ERCOT asks Texans to conserve energy with generation outages 2.5 times higher than normal

"This is unusual for this early in the summer season," said Woody Rickerson, ERCOT vice president of grid planning and operations, in a news release.

League City's Helen Hall Library History Club hosted an event related to Juneteenth on June 7. The holiday honors Union Gen. Gordon Granger coming to Galveston in 1865 to announce the liberation of enslaved people in Texas. (Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)
Celebrate Juneteenth in Galveston with a movie screening, parade and more on June 17, 19

The Juneteenth Legacy Project, which aims to recontextualize the day and properly communicate its story and relevance, is hosting or advertising numerous events over the course of the holiday weekend.

Missouri City resident Jackie Ward became the chief nursing officer at Texas Children’s Hospital in January. (Photo by Michael Carr Photography, graphic by Chase Brooks/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Jackie Ward, Texas Children's Hospital chief nursing officer, discusses career, nursing during COVID-19

Prior to becoming chief nursing officer, Missouri City resident Jackie Ward worked as an oncology nurse and in a variety of leadership roles at Texas Children's Hospital.