In Defence Of The Wheel Clamp
This May marks 30 years since the deployment of the first ever wheel clamp in London.
The wheel clamp was first used in the city of Denver, Colorado. As a result, they were initially known as “Denver Boots”. Since then, they’ve been referred to using every word under the sun that you wouldn’t say within earshot of your mother.
The first use of a wheel clamp on British soil was in 1983. They’re generally used as a means of cracking down on unauthorised or illegal parking when towing the vehicle is not an option. The guilty parkers must then pay a “release fee” to have the clamp removed. That’ll teach them.
But I’ve never understood the logic of this approach. It’s like when banks charge you for not having any money. So your car’s parked unlawfully. Whose bright idea was it to implement a device that ensures that the car can’t be moved – thus extending the duration of the parking violation? If this logic were extended to every crime, you’d have judges killing one member of the victim’s family for every hour the murderer doesn’t confess.The History of the Wheel Clamp
The wheel clamp was invented in 1944 and patented in 1958 by one Frank Marugg – a pattern maker by trade and a violinist with the Denver Symphony Orchestra.
The Denver police force required an alternative to towing, as cars were frequently vandalised whilst impounded. As those whose cars were damaged would regularly sue the city, towing was proving a most economically unsound solution to parking enforcement.
It was Dan Stills, a policeman, who came up with the idea of some kind of immobiliser to curtail the expensive towing problem. After approaching Marugg with his idea, history was made.
The London Wheel Clamp – which causes so many headaches for so many people in the UK – was designed by one Trevor Whitehouse, who filed the paten in 1991. His device was originally named after his Lancashire hometown of Preston, and was initially primarily used on private land, achieving mass infamy when introduced to public roads under the Road Traffic Regulations Act of 1991.The Lighter Side of the Wheel Clamp
Though supremely unpopular, it’s important to know that those who find their cars burdened with a wheel clamp have, more often than not, broken the law. So whilst it’s tempting to will them completely out of existence, it’s important to remember that they’re seldom used without a good reason.
The humble wheel clamp can also be used for good as well as evil. People attach them to their own cars, trailers and caravans as security measures, and they can also be used to prevent the moving of a disabled vehicle.
They can also serve a more logical function in law enforcement through preventing suspended drivers from taking to the road, or to preclude the escape by car of prosecuted people.
Nonetheless, the wheel clamp will always be shrouded in controversy and held in arch contempt by the vast majority of motorists.
So let’s raise a toast to the humble wheel clamp. The poor things never asked to be invented, and heaven knows that our roads would be in a state of perpetual chaos without them.
Image via Flickr user: Plinkk .