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Tow Truck Drivers Enforcing Winter Parking Bans Seen Plowing Through Red Lights

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Waking up to a nightmare – a Chicago family is looking for answers after their loved one was killed in a terrible crash.

Police said the driver of a flipped-over tow truck blew through several red lights before the horrible collision.

CBS 2's Lauren Victory woke up hours before dawn to show you several other tow truck drivers who are blatantly breaking the law.

One tow truck went through a yellow light that had not turned red yet. Another light had just made the switch, but perhaps dragging a 2,000-pound car made it hard to stop in time.

CBS 2 initially gave those tow truck drivers – paid with $60 million of taxpayer money – the benefit of the doubt.

Then we noticed a pattern. Traffic laws don't appear to count during the hours between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m.

That is the time frame during which city contractors are doing snow tows – hauling away vehicles that violate the overnight winter parking ban on major streets.

Some treat red lights like stop signs. Others turn left when it's not green, and others still speed toward the next tow.
What's the rush?

It's not hard to look at the at the math. You'll pay at least $230 for a snow tow, and city records we requested show more than $29,000 snow tows over a total of 12 months. That amounts to $6.6 million, not counting this winter.

"I think it's all about money," said Anastasia Johnson, who had her car towed.

Predictably, the forecast at the pound is frustration. But that storm intensified when we told snow tow victims about the behavior.

"They should have to abide by the rules," said Thomas Oliver, who was snow towed. "Every else gets punished and they're just doing whatever they want? So, what's that about?"

"There's so much weight behind them and they have so much speed and torque, they can do some serious damage and they don't seem to drive like that," said Scott Ladue, whose girlfriend was snow towed.

Is anybody monitoring all this? Some white cars with flashing lights belonging to supervisors from the Department of Streets and Sanitation do come to the scene.

But one of them sat idly as a tow truck driver popped open a car door on Wolcott and Milwaukee avenues. He eventually towed the car away.

Chicago Police were unable to determine if that is legal, but did confirm that tow trucks are not exempt from traffic laws and are not emergency vehicles.

That is curious, because back on Dec. 1, CBS 2 was out covering the start of the winter parking ban. People on the police scanner seemed aware of the problem.

"All those tow trucks flying through red lights trying to make those money," someone said on police radio.

Streets and Sanitation said, "We expect all of our employees and contractors to follow the rules of the road." But the department did not say if they would investigate the behavior we witnessed.

The city also did not ask us for specifics on which contractors were caught on camera.

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