All kinds of debris can be left behind after an accident. Who picks up what depends on several things.

Broken glass. Tires. Bumpers.

After a crash, we’ve all seen how parts from mangled vehicles can disrupt travel and become threats to other cars trying to get around the debris.

And with 11,707 reported crashes in Pima County last year, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation, that can result in a lot of roadway obstructions.

When authorities respond to these crashes, it’s not just victims that are important to take care of — it’s crucial that any impediments be removed from the roadway.

In Tucson, that process of removing those hazards takes the involvement of several different entities.

The onus to clean up is usually on the tow-truck companies, according to Officer Frank Magos, a Tucson Police Department spokesman who previously worked as a patrol officer.

“Once the tow company shows up, they’re responsible for cleaning up the debris in the street. Usually, the tow-truck company will take all that stuff and chuck it onto the truck,” Magos said.

Magos added that some people find their own way to tow their vehicle, possibly with help from a friend. “There’s nothing really set in stone as far as that goes, it’s pretty much just don’t leave your trash behind.”

In many collisions, Tucson police use Gary’s Towing. The company responds to scenes equipped to remove any vehicles and clear the rest of the road.

“More than likely there’s hardly anything that’s usually left,” a company dispatcher said Friday.

“But let’s just say it’s dark out, and something does end up accidentally left behind. As soon as we are made aware that there was something left behind, we do return to the scene as fast as physically possible and fix what has been wrong.”

But what if some debris goes unaccounted for during the cleanup to get streets reopened for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians? It’ll probably be Tucson police that get the call to follow up .

“Usually it’s TPD that gets the callback, somebody will say to come back and clean it up,” Magos said. “Then they’ll decide if the tow-truck company or a city street sweeper should come clear the scene.”

Sometimes large amounts of glass can be cleaned by those city street sweepers, if traffic detectives choose to call one in, Magos said.

The Tucson Fire Department may respond to put down sawdust to soak up vehicle liquids that can remain on the streets. That’s after taking care of anyone who has been injured.

And city street and maintenance crews are called if a crash involves Tucson infrastructure, according to Michael Graham, a spokesman with the Tucson Department of Transportation.

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Graham highlighted how the responsibility for cleaning up the debris would fall either on the city crews or on the responding tow-truck driver after a crash investigation.

“It would be us if the crash took out a tree and the tree fell into the road,” Graham said. “Then we have people on standby, who cover 24/7, they would get called out to go cut the tree up and then make sure to get it out the way.

“Same thing if an accident takes out a traffic signal pole, then our standby unit gets called and they would go handle the traffic pole being in an intersection in the roadway,” said Graham.

Down the Road

• Public meetings about Interstate 11: The Arizona Department of Transportation is hosting two public hearings in the Tucson area this month about Interstate 11.

The first is May 8 at the Tucson Convention Center ballrooms, 260 S. Church Ave., from 3 to 8 p.m.

That will be followed by a May 11 hearing in the Marana High School cafeteria, 12000 W. Emigh Road, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Open house for information about Houghton Corridor project: The Tucson Department of Transportation is inviting the community to an open house to learn about the progress of the Houghton Road Corridor improvement project on May 16, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Secrist Middle School, 3400 S. Houghton Road. Information will be available about the projects along the 13-mile corridor from 22nd Street to Interstate 10.

Contact reporter Shaq Davis at or 573-4218.


Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.