Friday, July 2, 2010
As travelers head out for their holiday weekend destinations, there is additional help available on the highways. Motorist assist units are hitting the Kansas Turnpike this weekend for the first time in more than two years to rescue drivers on the road.
Under the program, three safety assist vehicles will patrol the turnpike near Wichita and Kansas City. They help in a number of ways to promote safety on the turnpike during the busy summer travel season.
"We should have a very high number of vehicles in both directions," explains Jason Stockton as he prepares to hit the highway.
With the help of these new motorist assist units, those drivers will be better served if they run into problems on the road. After the economic downturn, the assist unit was scrapped. Stockton has worked for the turnpike for three years, but decided to apply for the new position. He knows that stalled vehicles can be an extreme hazard.
"Sometimes they're unable to get to the side shoulder," Stockton explains. "They park in the middle of the road and it can be an extreme danger."
As he started on his afternoon shift, it only took a few miles to find someone in trouble.
"This gentleman had an inside tire blown out on his semi," Stockton said. "It isn't causing any tread to fly off and he's checking with his company to determine whether he's going to drive on or call a tow truck."
The truck isn't a safety hazard, so Stockton moves on. Most people, he says, are very friendly.
"Troopers have noticed that the older generation... they want to try hard to do it themselves," he said. "They don't want somebody else to get dirty, but we don't mind. That's our job."
With the holiday weekend, Stockton expects to be very busy. But he finds the job very rewarding.
"I try to do things for others in hopes that someday if I need it, they'll do it for me," he said.
There is a catch, however. The program is being funded with help from State Farm Insurance. There still is no money in the turnpike's budget to pay for these units after Labor Day. At that time, Stockton and the other two drivers will return to their normal toll collection duties.