HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It’s mid-morning and David Ramos is searching for stranded drivers.
He’s part of the state’s Freeway Service Patrol, which helps motorists who break down on the H-1 Freeway..
“Every time we conduct an assist and we’re finished they ask, ‘How much is it gonna cost?’ We always tell them, ‘It’s not going to cost anything. It’s free!’” he said.
The state Department of Transportation created the unit in 2009 to clear the freeway of stalled vehicles.
“For every minute that a car is stalled on the roadway, that causes five more minutes of congestion and traffic,” said Kurt Kendro, who oversees the 22 drivers and 14 tow trucks that make up the FSP fleet.
If they can’t get a stalled vehicle running, they’ll tow it off the freeway or push it to a safe spot.
The patrol covers 29 miles of freeway, including sections of the Moanalua freeway and the H-2. These are areas with the most traffic and highest chance for stalls.
And from June 17, 2009 to June 30, 2018, the service assisted motorists 75,423 times.
Twenty-three percent of the time, it was for a flat tire.
"Flat tires is definitely the number one assist we come across regularly," Ramos said.
From 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, eight FSP tow trucks patrol the freeway. Drivers have two-way radios that connect them to a dispatcher who relays trouble calls.
"Many times we're giving out gas because people are running out of gas on the roadways," Kendro said.
He reminds drivers to check their gas gauge before leaving home, and to maintain proper oil and coolant levels and tire pressure.
Much of the motoring public has gotten used to seeing FSP trucks assisting stranded drivers, but Ramos said there are times he could use more cooperation.
"When it's so congested and nobody moves over it makes it that much more difficult to work comfortably," he said.
Besides auto emergencies, FSP drivers are trained in first aid and CPR and their trucks are equipped with defibrillators and fire extinguishers.
"We're outfitted for pretty much any emergency that comes on the roadway," Kendro said.
As the nation marks National Traffic Incident Response Week, Kendro said its a good time to remind drivers that should they break down on the freeway, FSP is just a phone call away at 841-HELP or 841-4357.
“It’s a great program that’s here to help the public,” he said.