Local News

Abandoned Cars Are Eyesores Along Triangle Highways

Posted April 30, 2007 7:23 p.m. EDT

— Abandoned cars: they're an eyesore, they can be dangerous and it seems like they're everywhere.

Interstate 40, the Raleigh Beltline, U.S. Highway 1—you name it. Ditched vehicles are sprinkled along most of our major roads.

The fact is, most people don't like abandoned cars, but they also usually pass them without giving them too much thought.

Think about this, however. In August 2003 on U.S. 1 in Cary, a van struck an abandoned, broken down Oldsmobile that had been left in the median. Three people died when the wreckage caught fire.

“It's like they're everywhere. I've actually seen people taking license plates off the car, and you know they're not going to come back and get it. They just kind of leave them out there like it's a junkyard,” said Buck Kirk, who is on the highways a lot in his job with the state’s Interstate Motorist Assistance Patrol.

The Beltline is a possible qualifier for junkyard status. In one swing around Interstate 440 with Kirk, WRAL’s Mark Roberts found 11 abandoned cars.

“We almost always see a splurge of abandoned vehicles at the change of the season, especially from the cold to the hot weather,” Kirk said.

Failing belts, hoses, tires and overheating stop a lot of cars in their tracks when the temperatures rise.

Some abandoned cars even come with a story. A Jeep alongside the Inner Beltline near Six Forks Road has a note that says, “Engine seized up on the 28th,” and the driver is trying to get it fixed.

Raleigh police said, however, that no matter what the excuse, once they tag an abandoned vehicle, you've got seven days to come and get it on your own. After that, police will tow it, and they'll charge you for it.

With the state Highway Patrol, said Lt. Everett Clendenin, “Our troopers tag 'em, and then people have 48 hours to remove them.”

The patrol's approach sounds tougher, but its forces are stretched thin.

“The issue with abandoned cars is, it's an eyesore, but not that many are involved in collisions and we understand that. We have to keep our limited amount of troopers focused on the speeders, the things that are killing the most people on our highways. We're not going to turn our back on them, but it's just not a priority to get to abandoned vehicles,” Clendenin said.

Fayetteville and Durham give drivers seven days to move an abandoned vehicle and will move it at the owner’s expense after that.

Cumberland County is a little more strict. The sheriff's office fines people $100 a day. And, if the vehicle isn't gone in 30 days, it's impounded.