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How do law enforcement officers deal with abandoned cars on the side of the road?

Chelsea Kellner
StarNews

Enforcement procedures vary, but it’s probably best not to leave your car by the side of the road for more than 24 hours if you want to avoid hefty towing fees.

As long as the vehicle isn’t a danger to passing traffic, law enforcement officers will generally leave a bright orange sticker on the back windshield or wrapped around theĀ  radio antenna. Once that sticker is on there, you have between 24 and 48 hours to remove the vehicle before it is towed at your expense. If that happens, the Division of Motor Vehicles will send a notification letter to the registered owner at their most recent address. Towing fees vary by company. If a car is left at the towing agency for an extended period of time, a storage fee may also be charged.

The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office gives the owner 48 hours before towing the vehicle, but it’s best to use caution when following the time frame noted on stickers received from the N.C. Highway Patrol. State law used to give you 48 hours to move the vehicle from the time it was labeled, which is noted on the Highway Patrol’s enforcement stickers, according to Sgt. Matt Hardee. Two years ago, however, the state shortened that time frame to 24 hours — but the budget crunch means that Highway Patrol won’t get any new stickers until the old ones are used up. State troopers usually let two business days pass before towing a car to make sure the owner has plenty of time to move it, Hardee said.

“We don’t go out in the morning looking for how many cars we can tow in a day,” Hardee said.

Abandoned cars aren’t a major problem in New Hanover County, according to Hardee and Corporal Charles Smith of the New Hanover Sheriff’s Office. In 10 years on the job, Hardee said he typically slaps on about two stickers per week in the three-county area, and most owners remove the car in time. Brunswick County tends to have more stickered vehicles than its neighbors, Hardee said, because it’s so rural and it can be difficult for owners to get back to their cars.

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