Calls from road go to CHP dispatcher
Emergency call boxes, placed every half-mile or mile along the roadway, may help save lives, said California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Gwaltney.
“Anything that would increase our communication with motorists would help lower our response time and that can make a difference to someone who’s lying on the side of the road bleeding,” he said. “We don’t have them here but I know that the call boxes work well down in the (Sacramento) Valley.”
The Service Authority for Freeways and Expressways, or SAFE, runs the call box program in five counties surrounding Sacramento.
According to SAFE, 1,274 call boxes in the Sacramento Valley have relayed some 295,000 calls to the CHP since they were installed in 1994. Despite the increasing use of cell phones, more than 13,000 calls were made from the boxes during June, July and August.
El Dorado County Supervisor Dave Solaro, who is working to get the call boxes installed in El Dorado County on highways 49, 50, 89 and 193, said the call boxes are simple to use. Motorists in need of assistance simply pick up the receiver which directly connects them to the CHP dispatch without dialing any numbers. When the receiver is picked up, the dispatcher knows which call box is in use and where.
Gwaltney said he would like to see call boxes placed along the remote stretch of highway that he patrols – U.S. Highway 50 over Echo Summit.
CHP records show that 80 accidents have occurred on Highway 50 between Meyers and Twin Bridges, just east of Strawberry, since the first of the year. Gwaltney said, because there are currently no call boxes along that stretch of highway, the majority of accidents are reported by cell phone, which don’t always work within the deep confines of the canyon walls. People without cell phones are forced to send a message into Meyers with other motorists who are passing by.
“And it’s not just accidents that get called in,” Gwaltney said. “People will stop to make the call for other emergencies – irate drivers, medical assistance, spousal abuse and breakdowns.”
He said increased access to the CHP dispatch wouldn’t create additional strain on the operation.
“We would get all of those calls anyway, we would just get them a lot sooner,” he said. “And that’s a win-win situation.”
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