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News & Notes 2015

News & Notes 2015


NATIONAL


Idea-Sharing Network Sessions: On June 26, 2015, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and SafeHighways.org hosted the first-in-the-nation Safety Service Patrol (SSP) Idea-Sharing Network Session, a new federal-led initiative to increase cross-communication and sharing of best practices among SSP program managers and operators across the country. Moving forward FHWA and SafeHighways.org aim to host these sessions periodically throughout the year and to invite SSP program contacts to present on a theme during each session. Following presentations, an open discussion and question and answer period is hosted and moderated by SafeHighways.org. For more information, click here.


SSPBC Tool Screenshot

A screenshot of the web-based SSP-BC tool, provided by FHWA, shows the different options available, such as location, traffic information, and physical roadway characteristics.

Benefit-Cost (SSP-BC) Tool: On July 30, 2015, the FHWA Office of Research and Development hosted a webinar to share and discuss the features of a new software tool, Safety Service Patrol Benefit-Cost. FHWA Saxton Transportation Operations Lab, in collaboration with University of Maryland’s Civil Engineering Departments, developed the web-based, user-friendly tool that allows transportation managers and decision-makers to take a closer look into cost-effective scenario planning before, during and after traffic incidents occur. To register and use the tool, visit the FHWA’s website.


InZoneAlert Vest

Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Tom Martin (right) and doctoral student Kristin Hines provided an update on their InZoneAlert vest in August. Photo from Virginia Tech website.

InZoneAlert Vest: In August, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute researchers published an update on its efforts to create a safety vest for construction workers and rescue personnel that would use video technology to warn workers of an impending collision. The warning through InZoneAlert vest would then allow the worker to avoid being struck and potentially save a life. The motorist would also receive a dashboard notification. Tom Martin, a professor with the College of Engineering who researches “smart clothing”, and Jason Forsyth, a then-doctoral student, started the project in 2013 and has seen the concept evolve from a backpack-sized apparatus to the size of a cell phone with new versions having the potential to be the size of a pack of gum. Preliminary testing of the InZoneAlert system has seen a 90 percent success rate in predicting potential vehicle-worker conflicts.


Study Addition: A new study has been added to the Resources section of this website. The study, published by Verizon, offers guidance on How to Use Telematics to Control Fleet Costs.


CALIFORNIA


Responder Incident Report App

The Bay Area Incident Management Task Force released a new app, Responder Incident Report, on the App Store in May. It aims to improve interagency communication and clearance times.

New Technology: In May, the Bay Area Incident Management Task Force (IMTF), a multi-agency partnership that includes the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, CalTrans, the California Highway Patrol, Federal Highway Administration, local law enforcement and fire departments, county coroners, the American Automobile Association, tow truck companies, and others, announced the release of a first-of-its-kind mobile application intended to streamline communications regarding traffic incidents between CalTrans emergency service responders and other agencies. The app, called Responder Incident Report, and available to download in the App Store, captures incident scene data entered by a first responder, including photos and descriptions, and then shares the data with a pre-defined group through a secure server. The data then appears as a customized alert on members’ of the group phones. The goal is to prevent miscommunication across agencies and to reduce response and clearance times.


FLORIDA


I-4 Coverage Expansion: In January, Florida DOT added a new Road Ranger patrol on I-4 to service motorists during its I-4 Ultimate project. The I-4 Ultimate project involves rebuilding of 21 miles of highway and 140 bridges, and adding tolled Express Lanes. The new Service Patrol will operate similarly to the existing Road Rangers, patrolling the construction zone on I-4 to help keep motorists safe while easing congestion and inconvenience that can occur from work zones, stopped vehicles, and roadway debris. The I-4 Ultimate project is projected to be completed by 2021.


Push for New Legislation:In September, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles prepared a proposal for review by Governor Rick Scott and the state Cabinet that calls for the state department’s Road Rangers to be added to the state’s Move Over Law. The proposal is part of an agency package that will be considered for the 2016 legislative session.


HAWAII


Program Achievements: In March, the Hawaii DOT shared its Freeway Service Patrols success – launching more than five years ago and having since helped 44,155 drivers. The majority of assistance provided to motorists in the state last year included flat tires (23%), gas (15%) and accidents (12%). When prompted by a local news station, KHON2, about the possibility of expanding to offer statewide services, DOT spokesperson Tim Sakahara said expansion was a possibility, with funding being the big question. The program is currently funded by taxpayers and federal funds.


IOWA


Coverage Expansion: In July, Iowa DOT announced it would be expanding its Highway Helper program to include highways surrounding Council Bluffs and Cedar Rapids-Iowa City areas. Each area will include two patrol vehicles operated by Wisconsin-based Prairie Land Towing with whom the DOT contracted for $9.1 million. The DOT uses state-operators to run its Highway Helper program in metro-Des Moines.


KENTUCKY


Coverage Updates: Due to the excessive cold during the winter, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) extended the Safety Assistance for Freeway Emergencies (SAFE) Patrol’s hours. The SAFE Patrol maintains standard operating hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., but in response to freezing temperatures, which were creating an increase in the number of stopped cars experiencing overheating, the SAFE Patrol extended its hours from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. during the colder winter days.


NEVADA


Sponsorship Announcement: On March 19, 2015, Nevada DOT (NDOT) announced a new sponsorship of its Freeway Service Patrol (FSP) that will help fund the safety response vehicles in Las Vegas and Reno. State Farm® will sponsor the patrol through 2017, allowing NDOT to allot funding previously devoted to the FSP toward other vital transportation programs. As part of the sponsorship, FSP vehicles will be updated with enhanced, highly-reflective safety markings to make the vehicles more visible. The State Farm logo will also be added to the FSP trucks.


NEW HAMPSHIRE


Coverage Expansion: The New Hampshire DOT (NHDOT) Bureau of Turnpikes (BOT) expanded its Safety Patrol’s coverage area and fleet size in 2015. In January, the DOT expanded its Safety Patrol’s coverage area to include the Spaulding Turnpike in its entirety during early morning and afternoon commuting hours. Previously, the patrol covered only the southern portion of the Spaulding Turnpike during the winter season.

In May, the DOT announced a second patrol vehicle would be added to increase coverage on the F.E. Everett Turnpike, which extends from the Massachusetts state line in Nashua to Exit 14 in Concord and is 39.5 miles long.


Sponsorship Announcement: The NHDOT Bureau of Highway Maintenance (BHM) announced a new three-year agreement with State Farm to sponsor its Safety Patrol along I-93. The patrol coverage route is 19 miles long stretching from the Massachusetts border in Salem to the southern merge with I-293 in Manchester. The sponsored vehicles now resemble sponsored Safety Patrol vehicles that currently service New Hampshire’s Turnpike system, including enhanced, highly-reflective safety markings to make the vehicles more visible, especially at night.


New Hampshire DOT recently added a call-in number to its patrol, allowing motorists to contact the DOT directly and request service. The number, #999, now appears on the program's highway signs along covered patrol routes.

New Hampshire DOT recently added a call-in number to its patrol, allowing motorists to contact the DOT directly and request service. The number, #999, now appears on the program’s highway signs along covered patrol routes.

New Call-In Number: In late July, the NHDOT announced a new way for motorists to reach its Safety Patrol and request assistance. By dialing #999, motorists are now directly connected to the NHDOT Transportation Management Center (TMC) in Concord which can then dispatch the Safety Patrol to the incident scene.


NEW JERSEY


NJDOT 20th Anniversary Cake

To celebrate its 20th Anniversary, NJDOT SSP program administrators, operators and supporters gathered for a press event complete with cake.

Anniversary: New Jersey DOT’s Safety Service Patrol celebrated its 20th Anniversary in December 2014. The program launched in 1994 and has since grown to cover 225 centerline miles of New Jersey’s highways. The patrol assists over 70,000 motorists annually and since the launch of SSP, the state has seen a significant drop in the time it takes to clear an incident – from 2.5 hours to now 45 minutes or less.


NORTH CAROLINA


NCDOT State Farm Safety Patrol

NCDOT State Farm Safety Patrol operators joined event speakers and NCDOT officials to celebrate the sponsorship announcement in Raleigh, NC. Speakers from left: John Sullivan, FHWA division administrator; Mike Charbonneau, chief NCDOT deputy secretary of communications; Mike Holder, NCDOT chief engineer; Nick Tennyson, NCDOT deputy secretary of transportation; and Bill Whitney, State Farm vice president of agency. Photo provided by NCDOT.

Sponsorship Announcement: On May 11, 2015, at a press event in Raleigh, the North Carolina DOT (NCDOT) announced a new sponsorship agreement for its Incident Management Assistance Patrol (IMAP) program. The agreement with State Farm renamed the program the NCDOT State Farm Safety Patrol. NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata said of the announcement:

“A primary goal of the Department is to make traveling in North Carolina as safe and efficient as possible. This innovative way of funding a vital program like the State Farm Safety Patrol furthers that effort without requiring additional tax dollars.”

The sponsorship provided an updated look for the patrol vehicles with enhanced, highly reflective safety markings as well as the sponsor’s logo. Additionally, with State Farm sponsorship, motorists can now learn more about the program and complete a digital survey about their experience by visiting www.assistpatrol.com or sharing their stories on social media using the hashtag #AssistPatrol.


OHIO


New Operator: On November 3, 2014, Ohio DOT launched a new fleet of State Farm Safety Patrol vehicles operated by Autobase. The patrol consists of 22 trucks and services Ohio’s six largest cities: Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo. To commemorate the launch, five days earlier on October 30, 2014, a six vehicle caravan traveled from Cleveland to Columbus, picking up 16 more vehicles to travel with to Cincinnati. The fleet stopped for press appearances, interviews and speaking engagements. To further showcase their commitment to roadway safety, State Farm donated one dollar for each mile driven during the cross-state caravan event to Students Against Destructive Decisions (S.A.D.D.), raising $10,000 for the group in total. The donation was presented at the Columbus press event. Following the event, the sponsor also compiled a video featuring the ODOT State Farm Safety Patrol and Comedian Michael Nelson.


Coverage Expansion: In May, Ohio DOT added a temporary Safety Service Patrol route in Youngstown, OH, and the new coverage area met with such success that it became a permanent addition in July. The new coverage area includes I-80, I-680, and State Roads 11 and 711. By the beginning of July, the Youngstown route had assisted over 346 motorists.


VIRGINIA


Virginia DOT SSP

Earlier this year, Virginia’s House and Senate passed legislation drafted by Delegate Sam Rasoul that clearly identified Safety Service Patrol employees as protected under the “move over” law. Photo provided by Virginia DOT.

New Legislation: In January, Virginia’s House of Delegates unanimously passed a bill to protect its Safety Service Patrol employees by making it clear that patrol operators are covered by Virginia’s “move over” law. Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke City) led the bill and said, “These men and women are out there every day helping disabled vehicles and making sure motorists are safe. We should absolutely return the favor by being alert and ensuring that they are out of harm’s way.” The Senate confirmed the bill in February.


WEST VIRGINIA


Anniversary: The West Virginia Courtesy Patrol celebrated its 16th anniversary in November. Established in 1998, the patrol has responded to 2.9 million calls and assisted 291,068 vehicles. During those assists, the Courtesy Patrol has administered first aid 131 times and performed CPR 9 times. The patrol has also responded to hundreds of thousands of incidents not involving motorists, such as debris removal, abandoned cars, and standard checks.


New Administration: In April, the West Virginia DOT would regain funding responsibility of the Courtesy Patrol, which for several years had been under the Division of Tourism’s budget. The Courtesy Patrol has always been operated under the direction of the DOT and will continue to service the same areas, despite the change in funding structure.

In Memoriam


Andres Garcia

Andres Garcia was a nine-year veteran of Florida’s Turnpike Road Rangers.

Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise State Farm Safety Patrol (aka Road Rangers) lost one of its own on September 15, 2015. A nine-year Safety Patrol veteran, Andres Garcia was fatally injured in the line of duty while providing assistance to a stranded motorist. Garcia was diverting traffic around the motorist on Florida’s Turnpike, when he was struck by a dump truck that attempted to slow down, but reportedly its brakes locked. Richard Wheeler with Florida Turnpike Services, the Safety Patrol operator, told CBS Miami reporters that it was a “sad loss” and the first time a patrol operator had been killed on Florida’s Turnpike in South Florida since the program started 12 to 14 years ago. Florida Turnpike Services is accepting any donations made on Andres behalf and forwarding them to his fiancé.

Back to Safe Highway Matters Fall 2015

Some Comments

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  1. Sarah Gill 25 March 2016 at 1:09 pm permalink

    Michigan has an RFP posted for the Freeway Courtesy Patrol in the Detroit area. The website to view the RFP is:
    http://www.michigan.gov/mdot/0,1607,7-151-9625_32842—,00.html. Look under the specialty services.


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