MILWAUKEE — Come rain or shine, Kyle Stephenson with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Freeway Service team drives along I-41, looking for stalled vehicles. The stretch of I-41 near the Zoo Interchange is a construction zone with reduced lanes. Removing stalled vehicles quickly is critical for everyone's safety.
“As I’m driving I'm scanning the horizon looking for hazard lights, looking for vehicles that might be stranded,” said Stephenson.
Randall Holt with the Department of Transportation says their Freeway Service has been around for 23 years, working in high traffic areas and work zones to provide roadside assistance to drivers free of charge, which includes providing small amounts of fuel, jump-starting vehicles, changing flat tires and towing cars to a safe location.
“The intent of it is to move vehicles off the roadway, highway to a safe location and it’s responsible for the driver to take it from there,” said Holt.
Over the past two years, the Safety Patrol vehicles logged 1.1 million miles, 35,110 service hours and made 7,595 motorist assists. Last year, the fleet service patrolled more than 442,000 miles, assisting 2,900 drivers. According to WISDOT, in Wisconsin there are about 136,000 crashes annually, statewide. That's a crash every four minutes.
“Anytime a vehicle is even on the shoulder, broken down, it causes delays because you have drivers that are slowing down looking to see the problem. Those delays are dangerous because you have people slamming on their breaks, and it would cause secondary crashes,” said Stephenson.
Stephenson said working to help those in stressful situations free of charge is rewarding, but he is also asking drivers to help make his job a little less stressful by moving over and providing space.
“If you see lights in the distance, whether it’s a cop, ambulance or tow truck operator - there still might be someone outside of that vehicle,” said Stephenson.