San Francisco Drivers Can Now Get Text Alerts Before Car Is Towed

Drivers in San Francisco, California, will now receive a text before their vehicle is towed, making it the first city to impose such an initiative.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) began "Text Before Tow" on Wednesday as a pilot program.

In a press release, the SFMTA said that the pilot program will apply to four instances where a vehicle would be towed in the city, which include parking on the street for more than 72 hours; blocking a driveway; parking in a construction zone; and parking in a temporary no-park zone. According to the press release, "peak-hour tow-away lanes, hazards, yellow or white zones and all other violations," are not included in the new program.

"These categories represent 27% of all vehicles towed in 2020, approximately 12,500," the SFMTA said in a press release.

The SFMTA has created an online form for drivers to sign up for the "Text Before Tow" program. Drivers will be prompted to enter their name, phone number, email address, license plate number, license plate state and vehicle registration address. The form also asks drivers to provide their city, state, and zip code. It also requires drivers to agree to several rules and regulations.

After signing up for the program, drivers that have violated one of the four towing instances will receive a test that their vehicle is about to be towed. A tow truck will be dispatched to the vehicle's location at the same time that the text is sent, according to the press release. After receiving the text, the driver can return to their vehicle and move it if they are able to arrive before it is placed on the tow truck. However, the driver will still receive a citation for the specific parking violation.

The SFMTA said that the text will not provide drivers with a "countdown," noting that it depends on "the travel time of the tow truck, which could be as few as five minutes." If a vehicle has been hooked up to the tow truck, the driver will be unable to stop it, but if they arrive beforehand, the vehicle will not be towed.

Parking violation
Drivers in San Francisco can now sign up for a program to receive a text before their vehicle is towed. The above photo shows a no parking zone on a road in San Francisco, California on September 15, 2018. Robert Alexander/Getty

"I'm thrilled to see a program here in San Francisco that prioritizes making life just a little bit easier for all of us," SFMTA Director Manny Yekutiel said in the press release. "It is rewarding to see not only a technological advancement that is a first of-its-kind, but one that will be a game changer when it comes to curbing the expenses that come with a tow for everyday people."

"It is my ultimate hope that this program also encourages drivers to park more mindfully," Yekutiel added.

SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin said in the press release that the agency hopes the new initiative will "clear the streets more quickly," in order to keep transit moving efficiently throughout the city.

Newsweek was directed to the press release after reaching out to the SFMTA for comment.