In 2019, there were 16,399 collisions reported in Ottawa. Most of them had minor or no injuries, but vehicle owners potentially faced expensive repair bills. No one wants to be involved in a collision, but it’s best to be prepared.

“Most people haven’t planned what they would do if they get hit,” says Cst. Michel Vandal, who works in the Traffic Section at Ottawa Police Service. “If you haven’t already done your homework, not knowing what to do could cost you thousands of dollars in fees not covered by your insurance policy.”

Who should you call when you’ve had a collision?

If there are injuries or damages are more than $2000, you must report the collision to police. 

In collisions where medical attention is needed or if there is a risk to public safety, like the roadway is blocked or wires are down, call 911. Otherwise, use the non-emergency police number 613-236-1222 and a Communicator can assess the situation and advise you what to do.

When vehicles are drivable, you will be instructed to go to one of the three Collision Reporting Centres in the city. If damages make your vehicle undrivable, you will need to arrange for a tow.

“Unless a police investigation or public safety issue has to take precedence, you have the right to decide who tows your vehicle,” says Cst. Vandal. “Drivers should be aware, tow costs vary, so do your due diligence before accepting a tow.”

Cst. Vandal recommends you contact your insurance company after you speak to police and get instructions how to proceed and find out what expenses they pay. 

“They can tell you what your policy will cover when it comes to tows, repairs and rentals. They may even have a preferred list of companies to use.” 

Regardless of which tow company you choose, get a detailed written estimate. “If you agree to a hook up without getting the fees in writing, you could be surprised with unexpected costs not covered by your insurance policy.”

Cst. Vandal also warns drivers to be wary of tow operators who come to collision scenes unsolicited. “It’s illegal for them to be within 100 metres of a collision scene unless they are called by an involved party,” he says, “but it’s not uncommon for us to see five or six trucks at a scene.”

Cst. Vandal suggests you regard unsolicited tow companies the same way you would someone who came unasked to your home with an offer of service. “Would you use them without knowing anything about the company and before getting documentation for what service is being provided and at what expense just because they showed up on your door step?”

Once you’ve made a call for a tow, keep track of who’s coming. “There could be other tow operators looking for business, so you want to make sure the company you hand your vehicle over to is the one you called,” he says. “There have been instances where other tow operators have shown up and the driver verbally agreed to the tow, thinking it was the company they called.” 

In one case the driver didn’t know where his vehicle was taken. “It took days to locate his car and by then he had accumulated storage fees that amounted to several hundred dollars,” said Cst. Vandal.

He advises drivers that tow operators must get signed written consent before starting a tow. 

“Know Your Rights,” says Cst. Vandal, “so a bad day doesn’t get worse for you.” 

For more information about what to do when you are involved in a collision, go to 

ottawapolice.ca/collision.