Is AAA Ditching Stranded Members Without a Safe Alternative?

Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on Sep 10, 2020 in Consumer Alerts

broken down driverAmid ongoing concerns about COVID-19, motorists are understandably reluctant to help those who are stranded due to a vehicle problem. Most stranded drivers are similarly hesitant to seek help from a stranger.

Enter the Automobile Association of America’s (AAA) towing service, a primary benefit of AAA membership. If you purchased a AAA membership for yourself or a family member, you probably did so mainly for the peace of mind. It is a comfort to know that you, your family member and car would return to a place of safety in the event of a vehicle breakdown, especially during a time of global crisis and opportunism.  

You are a responsible person and AAA member. Your vehicle’s “check engine” light illuminates. It’s probably nothing, it is fire season, high winds have been reported in the area and you face a steep mountain pass to get back to safety. This scenario happened to us, Jill and Richard Rizk a few days ago.  

Rather than risk the mountain pass not knowing what was wrong with our car, we called AAA who sent a tow truck several hours later. This is understandable, since they are busy.

However, when the dispatcher called to let us know that the tow truck driver was on his way, we were told that AAA’s policy was to not allow passengers in either the tow truck or inside their vehicle due to COVID-19.  This policy is also understandable, except that in in rural areas, taxi cabs and rideshare services are not readily available, regardless of the cost, especially during the pandemic.

By giving customers no other alternative, except to ride in their own car, knowing it is not functioning properly, AAA is putting other’s lives at risk with few, if any options to get home safely. Continuing to operate a car with the “check engine light” on in extreme driving conditions could further damage the vehicle or cause a complete auto breakdown — possibly under more dangerous circumstances.  

In light of COVID-19, AAA’s tow service should provide stranded members and their passengers an alternate means of transportation to a place of safety. They could accomplish this by either allowing members to ride with the tow truck driver or by arranging a ride with a second private driver, contracted by AAA. Yes, both options may cost more, but ditching AAA members at the side of the road is unsafe and unacceptable, regardless of COVID-19 concerns.