Crash Course: How Houston’s ‘motorist bill of rights’ could save you time, money — and your life!

HOUSTON — Most of us can agree that Houston traffic is the worse! If you've ever blown a tire on a major Houston freeway, you know exactly how scary that can be — but did you know you have rights?

Yes, the "Motorist Bill of Rights!" It's a real thing thanks to a program many Houstonians know as SafeClear.

"It's a traffic incident management program, and it just keeps motorists from being on the side of the road, broken down or in main lanes," Sgt. Michael Provost of the Houston Police Department said.

Ending up a sitting duck on a Houston freeway isn't safe, and it's not the time to try and finagle the best deal you can find for a tow.

The motorist bill of rights lists the price you're going to pay in writing as to help you get off the roadway as soon as possible. No muss, no fuss!

If you can make it to the shoulder; for $60, you can be moved from the freeway to somewhere safe. And then either have your tire changed, if there's a spare, or find alternative means of tow.

If your vehicle is unable to drive and is blocking a lane of traffic; for $159, the SafeClear approved tow truck will take you up to 20 miles or further for $3.18 per mile.

"Anytime I get called out on a safe clear call, I take my bill of rights out," a wrecker driver we spoke with said. "And I just show'em off top. It lets people know they're not being cheated out of their money."

If you're on the shoulder, you can refuse a SafeClear tow to a point! At least until HPD shows up.

"If you're broken down on the side of the freeway or in a main lane, we're going to tow you away immediately for your safety," Provost said. "If you've called AAA or someone else to pick you up, we're still going to take you off the freeway unless they're there. If we beat them there, we're going to take you off the freeway for your safety."

Since the price is set, you don't end up with 4 or more tow truck drivers all trying to pressure you into picking them.

The city has contracts with approved companies that have their own segments of Houston's freeways.

Apple Towing's turf covers Highway 610 from Bellaire to I-45 and then Highway 288 from Highway 610 to Beltway 8 South.

"You've got a lot of good companies out there that you know abide by just a flat rate," Apple Towing General Manager Dave Huber said. "They don't want to make a killing, they just want to make a living, and the bill of rights really makes everybody on the same page.

If you can't pay the $60; the SafeClear approved towing company will keep your car in storage for two days while you come up with the money. And don't worry, they'll hold your vehicle without a storage fee during that period.

If you feel you've been wrongfully towed, you have the right to a hearing. That's in the bill of rights, too!

Now, remember, these rights only apply when you're within SafeClear freeway zones in Houston.

Hopefully, you'll never need to know all of this and all your commutes are safe. But just in case, knowing what rights you have, or which you don't, can make all the difference when the unexpected happens.