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Archived Safe Highway Matters

Safe Highway Matters is a national, quarterly publication. Highlighted are feature articles from past issues. Use the drop down menu to view complete issues.

Fall/Winter 2013

Enhancing Safety Service Patrol Drivers’ Safety on the Roadside

By Rebecca Kanable

For Safety Service Patrol operators working in high-traffic, high-speed lanes, measures can be taken to improve safety. Lynn R. Self, Courtesy Patrol program manager with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) in Texas, explained it like this: “Incidents happen – we want to minimize the damage caused by them.” Measures to improve safety include highly visible vehicles and uniforms. Temporary traffic control devices, communication and training also can make a difference… Read More

Spring 2013

Taking the Wheel
A Look at Women’s Roles in Safety Service Patrols

By Tara Baukus Mello

The sight of a Safety Service Patrol truck in a stranded motorists’ rear view mirror brings an immediate sigh of relief that help has arrived. Yet when a woman emerges from the cab that sigh often changes to surprise, as women are a rarity in transportation jobs and even more rare in Safety Service Patrols… Read More

Winter 2013

Weathering the Storm
How Safety Service Patrols Prepare for and Respond to Natural Disasters

By Sarah Stanley

In New Jersey the northern winters frequently bring strong winds and blizzards, but the proximity of its communities to the coastline also opens the state to the impact of large hurricanes as evidenced this past October when Superstorm Sandy hit the Jersey Shore. In comparison, states like Florida, North Carolina and Louisiana are less likely to be hit by a massive snowstorm and more likely to be the target of a destructive hurricane or tropical storm… Read More

Fall 2012

Benefit-To-Cost Analysis for Safety Service Patrols

By Suzannah Cockerille

The key benefits of employing Safety Service Patrols (SSP) are reductions in the number and duration of travel delays and reduction in fuel consumption, secondary incidents, and environmentally damaging emissions. However, there’s a growing need to quantify and analyze these benefits in order to compare their efficacy with their capital, administrative and operational costs. With an ever-increasing focus on the effectiveness and expense of all aspects of traffic incident management, new methodologies and new tools are being used to assess the value of Safety Service Patrols… Read More

Spring 2012

Safety Service Patrol Business Models Strive to Meet Varying Needs
An inside look at centralized versus decentralized SSP programs

By Mindy Long

Forty states have Safety Service Patrols (SSP), yet how state agencies or other patrol operators administer those patrols within each state varies widely. While many SSPs are funded and operated by state departments of transportation, others are funded and operated by regional metropolitan transportation authorities like the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, local toll road authorities like E-470 in Colorado or by a local government agency like the Transportation Agency for Monterey County. In many cases, these entities have varying levels of control over the funding and operating procedures of their SSPs… Read More

Winter 2012

A Partner on the Road
Serving America’s highways with Safety Service Patrols—funded by taxpayers and private sponsors

By Andrew Graham

Across the country, Safety Service Patrols (SSP) travel the highways managing traffic incident scenes, assisting stranded motorists, and improving highway safety. For the past thirty years they have proven to be highly efficient, cost-effective incident management programs. But tight budgets and governmental downsizing have affected many SSP programs… Read More

Fall 2011

Wading through the Options
Some Best Practices for Selecting Vehicles and Equipment

By Leo Rickertsen

Safety Service Patrols (SSPs) are like fingerprints: no two are exactly alike. This is apparent in the variety of equipment and vehicles they select. What’s the “right” equipment mix and vehicle? The short answer is, it depends… Read More

Summer 2011

Finding the Right Fit: Outsourcing Safety Service Patrols

By Manya Chylinski

Private contractors run an estimated 39% of Safety Service Patrols. With more than 70% of all programs receiving funding from their state’s department of transportation,* why do agencies opt to use outside contractors in place of state employees to run their programs? Though Virginia’s first Safety Service Patrol, in northern Virginia, started in the early 1990s with state employees, over the years they have migrated to an outsourced model due to budget issues limiting the total number of staff the state could employ… Read More

Spring 2011

Safety Training for SSPs

“When you step out of the vehicle onto the highway, you’re stepping into harm’s way,” says Jack Sullivan, Director of Training at the Emergency Responder Safety Institute (ERSI). “Many times we assume that because we’ve got a fancy vehicle with flashing lights and maybe an arrow board that that’s enough to protect us. The reality is that motorists today are too distracted.” Motorists might not see a Safety Service Patrol driver or comprehend what the driver is doing, and the results can be tragic. According to the National Traffic Incident Management Coalition, being struck by vehicles while working alongside the highway is one of the leading causes of death and injury for emergency responders. Move over/slow down laws and public awareness campaigns alone can’t solve the problem. Safety Service Patrol drivers need training that emphasizes safety… Read More

Winter 2011

Data-Based Deployment of SSPs: A Growing Trend

“We found ourselves in a budget crunch, and had to make hard decisions about the extent of our safety service patrols.” So said Jim Hogan, Executive Director of Statewide Traffic Operations for the New Jersey DOT when reviewing the determining factors of choosing patrol routes for NJDOT’s Safety Service Patrol. “Capital needs required that we give up some of our operational budget. The SSP had to contribute. This forced us to use an objective criteria to maximize the dollars we do have.” When the NJDOT began the patrols in 1994 the criteria they used to determine patrol routes was primarily congestion by mile. The original 60 miles patrolled were the most congested in the state. As service expanded over the years, from 60 to 395 miles, the basis for what roads were added was intuitive reasoning… Read More

Fall 2010

Technology & Communication & Safety Service Patrols
Communications, other technologies are vital for safety as well as service.

Technologies available for Safety Service Patrols (SSPs) across the U.S. are fairly much the same. Differences in operations arise out of local response organization, road architecture, and terrain and weather concerns.  A quick survey of state departments of transportation (DOTs) highlights these similarities and differences. In Minnesota, the MNDOT FIRST (Freeway Incident Response Safety Team) TMC (Traffic Management Center) staff is co-located in the Twin Cities with the department’s maintenance dispatch and State Patrol (police) dispatch. CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) stations handle the FIRST response vehicles, each equipped with a laptop and VPN access to the CAD system. GPS-based AVL (Automatic Vehicle Locator) position information and logging of response “stops” is done via the CAD. And a comprehensive traffic CCTV network in the metro area is complemented with in-roadway detection sensors… Read More

Summer 2010

The “Green” Effect
Safety Service Patrols Offer Tangible Environmental Benefits

Safety Service Patrols’ top benefit is motorist safety. A less often discussed, but extremely significant additional benefit of these patrols is their proven “green” effect of reducing pollution. By helping disabled motorists get off the road, traffic congestion decreases, so fewer cars sit idling and therefore fewer pollutants fill the air. “Service Patrols are one of many efforts that can help reduce emissions and improve local air quality and livability in general,” said Doug Hecox, spokesperson for the FHWA Office of Transportation… Read More

Spring 2010

Secondary Highway Incidents
Assessing the Effectiveness of Safety Service Patrols

The logic seems clear: Mitigating the impact of accidents and incidents would seem to reduce secondary accidents and incidents, but how do we really know this? And, just how effective are Safety Service Patrols in reducing secondary accidents? To answer these questions, we turn to those who have measured cost benefits of Safety Service Patrols to see how the “prevention of an occurrence” is treated… Read More

Winter 2010

Eyes on the Road, Not the Text

Serious risks are associated with disabled vehicles at the side of our nation’s highways. Safety patrol operators changing tires and fixing mechanical problems work just inches away from vehicles speeding down the road at 50-60-70 miles per hour. For drivers a blink of an eye or a moment of distraction can result in a fatal mistake… Read More