Abandoned Car Act in Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois
You have seen them countless times. Cars, trucks, vans and SUVs sitting on the shoulder of the highway, sometimes for days. Their existence usually forces other drivers to change lanes in an attempt to keep a safe distance, as you don’t know if there is anyone inside, and if they are, will open. the door as you approach? Or, it hugs the thin white line that separates the taxiway from the shoulder and you don’t want to risk accidentally cutting your side mirror with yours. So who is responsible for getting rid of it? It depends on what state you live in.
My commute to and from work each day is to take Interstate 69 from Newburgh and travel it to downtown Evansville, where the train station is located. For at least the last week, there has been an abandoned car on the shoulder of the southbound lanes between the Green River Road and Hwy 41 exits. Like most drivers, as I make my way to Evansville on the southbound lanes every morning, I turn on my turn signal and slide at least partially into the left lane just to be safe. Every day I wonder if he will always be there in my path, and so far he has been. This is not the first time I have seen this on I-69 or other highways in the area. My first thought is always, “Who left this car and decided to leave it there?” I realize that car problems always come at the most inopportune time, so I guess that’s how most of these stories start. What I don’t quite understand is why they stayed there for so long. Granted, I don’t know everyone’s story, so it’s entirely possible that they don’t have the money to get it fixed, let alone tow somewhere.
Eventually, they all disappear. But, it is not by magic. To my knowledge, there is no abandoned car fairy that flies at night, sprinkles some magical dust on it and sweeps it under the cloak of night. A real human being has to face it. Did the owner finally call a tow truck? Or, did they say to hell with it, and let it become somebody else’s problem? For the sake of argument, let’s say they chose the latter, and let’s take a look at what’s going on in Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois (our part of the country, if you will).
According to Indiana code 9-22-1-11, it is the responsibility of a law enforcement officer to tag a vehicle that they have spotted or learned they are abandoned. “Label” means that the agent literally places a piece of paper in a visible area of the vehicle that includes the date, time, name, agency they represent, as well as the address and phone number to contact for information. The code states that if a vehicle is left “on or in the right-of-way of an interstate freeway or any freeway designated as part of the national highway system,” such as the one I saw recently on Interstate 69, the vehicle must be removed within 24 hours of labeling. This jumps up to 72 hours if it’s on private property. It’s obviously been a lot longer than 24 years since the car I see every day was abandoned, but I know law enforcement officers are busy and need to prioritize, and I imagine one abandoned car on the side of the road is a fairly low level of danger threat.
The officer should also attempt to contact the owner and tell them that the vehicle needs to be removed from where it is, which is easy to do if they leave the license plate on. If it is not collected by the owner, the agency represented by the agent will have the vehicle towed to a stockyard and the owner will be responsible for covering the costs as well as any fines.
I should note that although these are state codes, individual cities and counties have the freedom to set their own rules regarding abandoned vehicles.
Bluegrass State gives owners three days (72 hours) to collect the vehicle themselves. After that, like in Indiana, they contact a towing company to have it picked up and taken to a tank yard of the towing company’s choice. The police are also trying to identify the owner. If they are successful, they send that person a letter letting them know where their vehicle is and that they are responsible for all costs. The notification also states that if the owner does not collect their vehicle within 60 days, it will be sold and the state will get the remaining money once all loans on the vehicle are paid off.
Illinois gives owners two to 24 hours to retrieve a vehicle before they can take matters into their own hands. The duration depends on where the vehicle is located. According to Illinois code 625 ILCS 5, cars left on “a toll highway, interstate, or freeway” have only two hours to move it. Vehicles on “a highway in an urban district” get 10, while any vehicle left on a highway that is not a toll highway, interstate highway, or freeway has the full 24 hours to do something with it. That said, if an abandoned vehicle is “a traffic hazard because of its position relative to the freeway or because of its physical appearance which obstructs traffic”, the relevant law enforcement agency can have it removed. at once. As in Indiana and Kentucky, regardless of the situation, if law enforcement has to have it removed, the vehicle owner is responsible for all towing and storage charges.
Hopefully, you never find yourself in a situation where you have to leave your vehicle on the side of the road, but if you do, you’ll want to make sure you have a plan to get it out on your own as quickly as possible. . . I imagine the fines and fees that you would be responsible for if the state were to remove it would be much more expensive.
[Sources: Indiana General Assembly / Find Law.com / Illinois General Assembly]
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