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200 motorists abandon cars rather than pay clampers

CAR owners failed to reclaim more than 200 vehicles in Dublin last year while clampers raked in almost €5m.

It seems some drivers simply shrug and opt for one of the flood of cheap second-hand cars on the market when their trusty old vehicle is clamped.

Last year, more than 200 cars went unclaimed when they were taken off the streets of Dublin city after being clamped and towed away.

The majority of the unwanted vehicles were pre-1999 registrations, such as 1996-1997 Fiat Puntos and Ford Fiestas. Similar cars are being advertised for sale for around €600 on car websites and magazines.

Amid plummeting car prices, a Dublin City Council spokeswoman said: "In most cases, the cost of reclaiming the vehicle would exceed the value of the vehicle."

Drivers must stump up €80 to Dublin Street Parking Services (DSPS), contracted to provide the service to the council, to free their clamped car.

If the vehicle is towed to the city car pound then the price starts to soar. The owner has to fork out €80 for clamp removal, a further €80 to cover the costs of towing and a storage charge of €35 for each day it is held.

Paul Dennehy, a spokesman for DSPS, said every effort was made to try and contact the owner, with the council publishing advertisements including the vehicle's registration number. They are given around four to six weeks to reclaim the car before it is sold for scrap.

Just over 60,500 drivers had to stump up the release fee in 2009, as the service took in €4.84m in clamping release fees. This compares with drivers handing over €4.7m in 2008.

"The cost of providing the service far exceeds the income received in clamp release fees," the spokeswoman added.

There were 405 vehicles removed to the pound last year, with 200-220 unclaimed.

This year's 'biggest earner' proved to be a street located in one of Dublin city's prime shopping areas. Drivers paid out more than €91,000 after more than 1,140 vehicles were clamped in Noel Purcell Walk, just behind St Stephen's Green shopping centre.

Eagle-eyed clampers also spotted 950 errant motorists on Shelbourne Road, in the D4 suburb of Ballsbridge.

Many clampers have to endure verbal abuse which is "quite commonplace", however, physical attacks are deemed rare. "They tend to be verbal attacks from onlookers, actually. The car owner realises why they have been clamped. They tend to be fairly accepting of it," Mr Dennehy said.

"Potentially it is a very dangerous job, as you can imagine; they are trained in conflict management and are just doing a job like everybody else."

Irish Independent