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Etiquette for Abandoning Your Car

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The first day of spring isn’t always sunshine and flowers. Sometimes you get the unwanted “gift” of more snowy weather. If you find yourself in the latter scenario as we transition into spring, you might be asking the following two questions. “When is it ok to abandon your car?” “What’s the right way to do it?”


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Inclement Weather

While you can often safely drive through snowy, icy, and/or sleety road conditions, sometimes the weather makes your route so dangerous that you might feel safer leaving your vehicle and coming back for it later in the day (when, hopefully, the snow plows have cleared the road and the storm system has moved on). Maybe it’s a whiteout condition and you happen to be traveling on a major road or highway that’s near a public place like a gas station where you can seek shelter.

Disabled Vehicle

Another reason for choosing to abandon your car might be an unexpected breakdown or a major mechanical problem with your vehicle. Inclement weather can slow the arrival of roadside assistance and/or the tow truck service you called.

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Stay Safe

If you do decide to leave your car on the side of the road, make sure to do it safely. Pull off to the side of the road, so your car is at a safe distance from traffic. Leave your flashers on to help alert other cars to the presence of your vehicle. Set flares if you have them on hand.

Mark Your Car

Before abandoning your car, make sure to hang an object out of one of the windows, like a bright towel or spare piece of clothing, to signal to authorities that you intend on coming back to retrieve your vehicle at a safer time.

Time Frame for Claiming Your Car

Each state has its own policy for exactly how many hours you can leave your car abandoned before they ticket you. The law in Alaska, for example, states that you have 48 hours to pick up your car from the side of the highway. Other states, like North Carolina, allow you 24 hours to retrieve your car once authorities place the orange sticker of vehicle abandonment on your car.

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News Sources: WFMY News 2, PEMCO Insurance, DOA Alaska