The Reason People Hang White Towels or Bags on Broken-Down Cars

All kinds of silent communication is taking place on roads, from trucks that mount stuffed animals on their grills to people flashing their lights. So, if you happen to come across an abandoned car with a towel, t-shirt or plastic bag tied around the driver’s mirror, here’s what that means. The reason drivers do that is to signal that they’re in need of assistance and haven’t just abandoned their car. This practice varies widely, depending on where you live. It was clearly more of a benefit prior to cell phones, when calling a family member or roadside assistance meant having to walk to the nearest payphone. Some people believe that a towel or bag can prevent the car from being towed, but that’s not true. If law enforcement decides a vehicle needs to be relocated, a towel or bag isn’t going to dissuade them. In most cases, the towel/bag is simply an indication that there’s a mechanical problem and that you are in the process of arranging to have the vehicle fixed or moved.