It was a chilly spring morning when a driver with the MDOT State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART) came across a disabled vehicle on the side of I-695.
While the disabled vehicle wasn’t unusual – CHART personnel assist tens of thousands of motorists a year – this elderly motorist wandered outside his car and appeared disoriented.
Little did the CHART driver know that, just minutes earlier, a silver alert had been issued for the motorist due to concerns for his health and safety.
Ultimately, the CHART driver contacted police, who responded to the scene with medical personnel, and the motorist was transported to a hospital. The CHART driver, meanwhile, was credited with getting the motorist the help he needed.
These are the kind of incidents that CHART drivers and Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Courtesy Patrols and Vehicle Recovery Units respond to regularly.
CHART drivers patrol 2.4 million miles a year, respond to approximately 32,000 incidents and assist another 35,000 motorists, said Scott Yinger, Deputy Director of CHART Operations.
“Every eight minutes, we’re helping someone out on the road,” Yinger said.
MDTA drivers, meanwhile, patrolled more than 1.3 million miles in 2019, assisted operators of 7,398 vehicles and changed 6,261 flat tires.
State drivers may assist in the event of a crash. Or they might provide a gallon of gas to a motorist who ran out of fuel. These motorists could be doctors, nurses, pharmacists or others who play critical roles in the battle against COVID-19.
CHART employees also work hard at the Statewide Operations Center (SOC), a comprehensive, state-of-the-art command and control facility in Hanover. It’s a truly Intelligent Transportation System, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. MDTA has a similar Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
Safety is the top priority for all MDOT and MDTA drivers. These drivers are often the first to respond to incidents on Maryland’s highways and toll facilities.
On April 30, five separate tractor-trailer crashes shut down parts of the Capital Beltway for hours, crippling one of Maryland’s busiest highways and delaying the delivery of goods to local businesses. CHART drivers were on hand to assist with each crash.
Drivers are trained in first aid, skills that come in handy often. One CHART driver was credited with applying a life-saving tourniquet to a motorist injured in a crash. Another used CPR to resuscitate a baby. Then there was the silver alert earlier this spring.
Often, MDOT SHA and MDTA drivers are viewed as knights in shining armor to the motorists they assist. These drivers are nervous, anxious and scared when stuck on the side of the highway. Those feelings turn to joy and relief when state trucks pull up behind them, employees ready to lend a hand.
All the while, personnel back in the SOC and EOC keep track of the incidents and maintain data – such as weather conditions and road temperatures – that may help prevent similar incidents in the future.
MDOT Secretary Greg Slater spent 22 years at MDOT SHA and is intimately familiar with the roles CHART and MDTA drivers play on Maryland’s roadways.
“Personally, it’s reassuring to know that no matter what time of day it is, these employees are making Maryland safer,” he said.