Collision Center draws praise, criticism after nine months open

Roanoke County Police say service is doing well, but some disagree

ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall is praising a service for it's results. He says the Collision Center, which first opened in September, has saved police time in writing reports and has received high marks from people using the service. But some in the county, including several tow-truck companies, say the service isn't the way the county should be handling things. 

Hall gave supervisors a shining review of the Collision Center Tuesday. He says it's already having a big impact on his department.

"We estimate that every crash that we send to the center saves us at least an hour in terms of writing the report," said Hall.

Since the center opened, Hall says his officers have sent more than 250 crashes there, with almost no complaints.

"The public feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I think it's 99.9% of the people that go to the center say that they got good or better customer service," said Hall.

But talking to tow truck drivers, many are still bitter about the arrangement. Very few of them will tow cars to the center.

"They were proposing to give us 25 dollars additional to take the car to the collision reporting center," said Wayne Basham, who owns Qwik Time Towing.

Basham says that's not enough to make a profit, but Hall says, he's found a way to do it without the tow companies.

"What we are in the process of pilot testing is a tablet computer that will take the necessary pictures and collect the basic information about the case number, the motorist information, and transmit that to the center," said Hall.

Meaning a tow truck would never have to go to the center at all, but Basham contends, that's just going to be a waste of time.

"Now it's going to be taking longer, because the officers are going to be on the scene taking pictures and sending them in, instead of just documenting the crash and then it's over with," said Basham.

But Hall says, moving forward, officers may not be on the scene in every occasion.

"What has happened in Canada is that for very minor collisions, they just refer them directly to the center if the vehicle is driveable. That is not something that we have done at this point. That is something that may be considered in the future," said Hall.

Basham says, that could lead to a host of new issues. Drivers are currently required to respond to the Collision Center within 48 hours after a crash, but he says, without an officer present, that may not happen.

"No police officer responds, how do you know if you're even going to show up?... If you don't have a driver's license, you're not going to show up. Take the car, park it somewhere, and be done," said Basham.

Hall says he believes the benefits he's seen have far outweighed any negatives, and other localities seem to agree. The City of Salem plans to begin sending crashes to the Collision Center this October.