Motorists get a helping hand from highway patrols
New Jersey motorists stranded on a state roadway could get a helping hand from the Safety Service Patrol, the state's fleet of vehicles that help disabled motorists.
Operated by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), the SSP operates on 13 state roadways and handles approximately 70,000 roadside emergencies annually. The service has been sponsored by State Farm insurance company since 2012 as part of a public-private partnership.
"When SSP shows up on the scene, we try to be as helpful as possible," said Sal Cowan, director of traffic operations for the NJDOT.
Created in 1994, the red and white service trucks cover over 200 linear miles of interstate and state highways throughout New Jersey. Cowan said they patrol 140 miles in the northern part of New Jersey and 100 miles in the southern part of the state.
The roads they service in Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Essex, Union, Morris, Somerset, and Middlesex counties include I-78, I-80,I-287 and Route 440. In Southern New Jersey, the roads include I-295, I-95, I-195, I-676, I-76 and Routes 29, 55 and 42. These roads cover parts of Mercer, Burlington, Gloucester and Camden counties.
The service is provided free of charge and SSP drivers cannot accept tips.
Assistance includes changing a flat tire, pushing a disabled vehicle off to the shoulder, pulling a vehicle trapped in mud or snow back onto the road, providing a small amount of gasoline and making minor repairs.
"We can give them a gallon or two of gas to be able to allow them to be able to get off the exit safely and to a nearby service station. We can also provide them with a cell phone to make a phone call in case there is an emergency," Cowan said.
In addition to adding motorists, the SSP will also lend a hand to the New Jersey State Police and other secondary responders by redirecting traffic during incidents, promoting safety and creating a safe work zone.
Cowan said when New Jersey motorists see the SSP on the side of the road, they should move over when they spot the trucks.
New Jersey enacted the "Move Over Law" in response to the death of Joseph Kealey, a SSP operator who died while on the job. The law was enacted in January 2009.
Cowan said the move over issue is a matter of law.
"Part of our program (is) to be able to educate the public at large, to utilize the electronic signs on the vehicles, to say - 'slow down, move over' whenever we are at the scene of a stopped vehicle or first responders assisting with an accident on the roadway," Cowan said.
Drivers in need of help can call 911, and they will get in touch with the SSP.
"If it is in an area that we cover with safety service patrol will be out there to help," Cowan said.
If you have a story to share about being helped by the SSP, you can do that by visiting www.assistpatrol.com.