In Jan. 31-Feb. 6 issue
By Derek Aaron
Times Journal Reporter
SAFE Patrol offers aid to stranded travelers on several major Kentucky roadways, including the Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway.
RUSSELL SPRINGS - Being stuck in pitch dark on the Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway at 9 p.m. with car trouble is no fun.
That's why a free, but little-known, service exists, according to Becky Myers, assistant program director in the division of transportation security.
The SAFE Patrol program, which began in 2004, is an assistance branch of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's Division of Transportation Security designed to aid motorists and assist with incident management, according to the transportation cabinet's Web site.
SAFE is an acronym for Safety Assistance for Freeway Emergencies and is part of a "comprehensive incident management initiative to improve safety and reduce delay caused by nonrecurring congestion and improve operations of the freeway system," according to the cabinet.
Two highly used roads through Russell County are affected by the free service, Ky. 80 and the Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway, Myers said.
"We cover all interstates and parkways in the state," Myers said. "We had a limited area we patrolled until we went statewide on September 1, 2007."
While free, if a wrecker is used during service, the driver is responsible for payment, she said.
According to the transportation cabinet, the SAFE Patrol operates 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week and covers 1,025 miles of Kentucky roadways.
"If an accident takes longer to clean up, we will stay until the work is completed," Myers said.
Four main areas operators of the service assist with are gasoline and oil for those in need, adding air to tires or changing flat tires, providing a "jump" for vehicles with dead batteries and other smaller automotive repairs.
Myers said the patrol currently has 12 trucks and one van operating on 17 interstates and parkways. By the end of February, Myers said the patrol's fleet would be upped to 27 trucks. This will cut down on the time it takes a SAFE Patrol vehicle to reach a waiting person in need.
Myers said, as of now, it takes anywhere from 10-30 minutes to respond to a vehicle emergency, but promised the patrol vehicles would make it there.
Each SAFE Patrol vehicle comes fully equipped to handle minor roadside emergencies and to assist at the scene of a crash, she said.
The following are some items carried on each SAFE Patrol vehicle: two ton jack, air compressor, battery jump pack, fire extinguisher, flashing arrow board, push bumper, drinking water, shovels, brooms, impact wrenches, gas and oil, cell phones, first aid kits, reflective cones, radiator water, flares, portable signs and blankets.
The roads included in the SAFE Patrol program are I-75, I-64, I-65, I-24, I-71, I-265, US-23, Ky-80, Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway, Wendell H. Ford Western Ky Parkway, Audubon Parkway, Edward T. Breathitt Parkway, William H. Natcher Parkway, Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway, Hal Rogers Parkway, Martha L. Collins Bluegrass Parkway and the Julian Carroll Purchase Parkway
Myers said the patrol truck operators ask for feedback and hand out comment cards to return to the Transportation Cabinet's Division of Transportation Security.
"We had people say some of the nicest things about the program," Myers said. "People have called us 'angels' and that we're the best thing a taxpayer can support."
"All of the comments we have received so far have been positive," she said.
To call the SAFE Patrol for a vehicle emergency on Ky. 80 and the Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway in Russell County or any other of the 15 other interstates and parkways, dial 877-FOR-KYTC.