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News & Notes Fall 2012

Each quarter Safe Highway Matters highlights recent developments and news items about Safety Service Patrols across the country. Submit your News & Notes to

News & Notes Fall 2012


The Federal Highway Administration is rolling out new TIM training efforts including “Train the Trainer” classes and a newly published TIM Outreach Toolkit available to view here. The Emergency Responder Institute also provides training modules on its Learning Network which is available to Safety Service Patrol drivers with the opportunity to earn Certificates for satisfactory completion of each module.

Group Photo of NJDOT SSP Drivers

Travelers Marketing Photo Submission for AASHTO's Faces of Transportation Contest.

AASHTO opened its “Faces of Transportation Photo Contest” to general public entrants in addition to state DOTS for the first time this year. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Travelers Marketing both submitted photos of Safety Service Patrol operators. In August and September AASHTO accepted votes for the People’s Choice Voting and will announce a winner in early October after receiving 6,000 votes (a record)!

A new Facebook group administered by Virginia Safety Service Patrol driver, Jason Wells, intends to create a meeting place for everyone and anyone involved in the Safety Service Patrol industry. The group has a total of 27 members to date including SSP professionals from Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey and even Australia posting information. Facebook users can find and join the group by searching for the group titled “Safety Service Patrollers United” or try this link directly to the group page.

A YouTube video from a motorist assisted by the New Jersey DOT Safety Service Patrol was submitted to, a website created specifically for motorists assisted by State Farm sponsored patrols to share their story. Check out this video of Nicky sharing her story and saying “thanks” to the SSP driver who saved her during rush hour traffic.


In late September, the California Highway Patrol shut down a 10-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway, one of the nation’s busiest freeways, for what is being called Carmageddon II – a road improvement project that includes the demolish and reconstruction of the Mulholland Drive bridge. The California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) hoped to combat anticipated traffic congestion as a result of the detour away from the bridge through public announcements and encouragement to avoid traveling in the area. CalTrans offers the Freeway Service Patrol for those motorists who find themselves stranded near the construction site on one of its busy freeways.

Half of the Freeway Service Patrol in Santa Cruz County is facing budgetary issues come early next year. The patrol covers Highways 17 and 1, and while Highway 17 funding has been secured, Highway 1 was an added patrol coverage area as part of a construction project that is set to wrap, along with its funding, in March 2013. The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, who shares the funding requirements with CalTrans, is looking into additional funding options to cover the new four-year contract with a tow company to provide the service.

The San Joaquin Council of Governments, a regional transportation authority, just hired a towing company specifically to patrol Interstate 5 and Highway 99. Both roadways have seen large-scale construction projects pop-up and are expecting more construction to continue in years to come totaling an investment of $675 million. The contract for $1.8 million was awarded to Mike’s Towing who has agreed to provide service to stranded motorists during peak travel times for the next 30 months beginning in early 2013. Funding for the service will be provided from the budgets of construction projects and will allow Mike’s Towing, who provides a similar service in other areas of California, to add five more tow trucks and hire four more operators.


Attorney Tom Olsen broadcasted his “thanks” and “praise” to Florida DOT Road Ranger Mike Cocomazze in July on his radio show, “Olsen on Law.” Attorney Olsen was returning from a day of boating with his boat entail when his boat trailer got a flat tire at 9:30 on a Saturday night in Orlando. The Florida Road Ranger came to his rescue calming him down and getting him back on the road. As thanks Attorney Olsen had Mike on the show and informed all of his listeners of the great service available to all motorists.

In June, Florida Department of Transportation District Four’s Intelligent Transportation System Unit improved safety of its emergency responders by offering training tips on safety procedures during air rescue operations at Traffic Incident Management Team meetings. Christine Ponticelli, Chief Pilot for the Broward Sheriff’s Office, made a presentation to the Broward TIM Team, saying that she would not attempt to land on the highway if she can’t do it safely, emphasizing there is no reason to endanger the flight crew or create additional problems at a scene involving patients with life-threatening injuries. If in doubt that a safe landing is an option, she said, transporting the patients by ground to the nearest hospital is a better option.

Some of the safety tips shared with the TIM Team members were:

  • Law enforcement officers can help keep the landing zone safe during the rescue operation by making sure responders don’t wander into the area. Officers should be posted both in front and in the rear of the chopper, with each having a 180-degree visibility field.
  • Responders should never approach the helicopter unless given a signal by the pilot. The flight medics will come to the responders. Paramedics with the ground crew should wear their helmets when working around the helicopter. The pilot has a siren that will sound if something goes wrong.
  • A rescue helicopter does not make completely vertical landings or takeoffs. The craft approaches at 45-degree angle and needs about 150 feet of space in front for takeoff.
  • Emergency lighting can blind the pilot during night-time operations, so turn down the lights if possible. Use flashlights to help the pilot locate the landing zone, but turn them off while the helicopter is landing. Do not use flares.

Group training events like these are encouraged to ensure proper management, cooperation and treatment amongst first responders during emergency situations.


The Indiana Department of Transportation’s Hoosier Helpers are being featured in a PBS documentary airing late September and October. Find out more in this quarter’s Safe Highway Matters article: Hoosier Helpers: The PBS Inside Story.

INDOT Hoosier Helpers leaders at the award ceremony

INDOT Hoosier Helpers leaders at the award ceremony.

The Indiana Department of Transportation was awarded the 2012 Governor’s Public Service Achievement Team Award for its efforts in finding additional funding for its Hoosier Helper program through sponsorship – a first of its kind opportunity for INDOT. The project included developing an RFP, selecting a partner, negotiating terms and guiding the unique contract through the signature process. The new sponsorship program is not set to provide $1.1 million in revenue over three years and offset 30 percent of the program’s operating costs.


"Twitter" post

Kansas Turnpike tweet reminding motorists of the availability of the State Farm Safety Assist.

In a time of fuel shortage, the Kansas Turnpike Authority thought to utilize the services of its Safety Service Patrol to aid motorists. In late August, two of the Turnpike’s gas stations, Matfield Green and Towanda, ran out of fuel for half a day. The Turnpike used the power of social media to let motorists traveling its roads know that the State Farm Safety Assist program was out on the roads and prepared to provide motorists with enough gas to get them to the next station should they find themselves stranded on “E.”


Missouri DOT put together a “Thank You” video for the legislature passing the “Move Over” law. MoDOT workers, including Maintenance Supervisors and construction workers, participated in the video that reminds motorists of the importance of moving over or slowing down for first responders and construction workers on the side of the road.


The Virginia DOT (VDOT) Safety Service Patrol gained some extra recognition and yet another expression of gratitude for their work from an assisted motorist whose letter was published in The Washington Post this September. Jane Ashley, a former colleague at newspaper, wrote in to share her story of being assisted after a tire blow out on Interstate 95 that left she, her 12 year old daughter and their two dogs stranded on the roadside during heavy traffic. Read the full letter here.

Virginia State Police has offered a Motorist Assistance Program for nearly three decades, but in December the State Police will no longer provide the service. Instead, to avoid duplication in services, the Virginia DOT will provide the same services to stranded motorists via its Safety Service Patrol, which was reinstated in the area earlier this year.

In late August, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) made an announcement that will aim to make the roadways safer for traveling motorists as well as the Safety Service Patrol drivers who patrol its busiest roadways everyday by reducing distracted driving. VDOT with the assistance of a sponsor has rebranded its Rest Areas as “Safe Phone Zones” to curb cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle.

Back to Safe Highway Matters: Fall 2012


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