It may seem like it is not worth paying a tow truck to come pull you out of the ditch when the next guy with a strap can do it for you, but there are some reasons for having a professional do the job rather than an amateur.
- Towing companies have insurance to protect not only themselves while they are working by the side of road, but also, in the unlikely case that it does happen, to cover any damage which might be done to your vehicle. Not only is an amateur more likely to damage your vehicle, but he/she will probably not compensate you if damage is done.
- If an amateur or Good Samaritan is using a strap, chain, or rope, they are pulling by driving their vehicle away from yours, usually jerking on the strap, chain, or rope. Not only can your vehicle be damaged by the sudden amount of force from the jerk, but if the strap, chain, or rope fails or comes disconnected, it can fly through the air with a great deal of force and possibly damage something or even injury or kill a person. A professional towing operator is using a winch to gently pull your vehicle and is using secure attachments.
- An amateur is often going to need to pull perpendicular to the road, so they are in the road and can possibly cause a secondary accident in which vehicle(s) can be damaged and/or someone can be injured or killed. A tow truck has winches and snatch blocks so that the pull can be done from a position parallel to the road and safely out of traffic.
- A tow truck has lights and beacons as well as flares and cones to be able to warn on-coming traffic of the work being done by the side of the road. A tow truck operator has been trained to work safely and carefully and to wear reflective clothing for visibility. A professional can manage the scene to keep everyone, including you, and everything there as safe as possible.
- A tow truck operator knows where and how to attach to your car to avoid damaging the part to which the winch line is attached and any parts of the vehicle which may come in contact with the winch line, straps, or chains. Nylon straps and special hooks can be used to attach the winch line. Manuals are available to towing operators to show them the attachment points for different makes, models, and years of vehicles. Sophisticated methods such as the use of a Cruse Loop can sometimes be used. An amateur may hook bumpers or steering, brake, or suspension components and then, when pulling on them, bent, damaged, or yanked off the components.
- Your vehicle’s insurance may include emergency roadside assistance which may fully or partially reimburse or pay for the expense of having a professional pull you out of ditch, but will not pay or reimburse you for anything which the amateur may charge you.
- It is not unusual for a vehicle to be damaged as it travels through snow, bushes, trees, rocks, etc. when it went off the road. Hoses can be damaged. Steering, suspension, and brake components may have been bent or damaged. It is possible for so much snow or mud to be packed around the brakes, wheels, suspension, steering, fan, or other components that they can not function properly. A towing operator knows what to examine to be sure that a vehicle is safe to drive after it is pulled out of the ditch. If the vehicle is not drivable, the tower is prepared to tow the vehicle to a repair facility, body shop, or garage. If the vehicle has full coverage insurance, this is all covered by the insurance. For you to have another accident farther down the road because of damage done when you slide off the road would be very unfortunate.
The stories of secondary accidents; damage, injury, and death from flying ropes, chains, or straps; extensive damage done to vehicles during the pull; and exorbitant amounts of money being charged by people stopping to provide “help” are all well documented. Parks Highway Service & Towing recently towed a vehicle which had had the steering rod yanked completely off by a person who stopped to “help;” what would have probably been a relatively inexpensive winch-out turned into the winch-out and tow of a vehicle which might have been damaged beyond repair. The vehicle owner was covered by insurance and the winch-out would not have cost her any money. Another recent job was done after an amateur had already ripped the bumper off the car. Recently a man was killed when the strap he was pulling on came loose and snapped the hook through the back window of his truck, killing him while his young daughter sat beside him. http://pharostribune.com/local/x910010541/Man-killed-by-flying-tow-strap-while-helping-stranded-motorist
If you slide off the road and someone stops to offer help, consider strongly asking them to recommend a professional towing service which you can call rather than letting them hook a rope, strap, or chain to your vehicle and yanking on it.