There’s a sinking feeling when your car breaks down on Florida’s Turnpike or an interstate highway. Even if you’re not stalled in the highspeed travel lane, cars whiz by at 70 miles an hour.
It happens all the time. Tires go flat. Radiators boil over. Gas tanks run dry. Engines fail. Fortunately, a well-equipped and trained Road Ranger is not far away and will be there to help before long. Simply dial *347 (star FHP) any day, any hour, to summon help from the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP). A Road Ranger will arrive to help on interstate highways, and the State Farm Safety Patrol is on duty on the turnpike. Their assistance is free to drivers as a public safety service for all of us. Road Rangers and State Farm Safety Patrol are a busy bunch – busier than you might think. In 2016, for instance, they responded to 84,031 incidents or “assists” on the turnpike and interstate highways in an area from Broward County north to Vero Beach in Indian River County.
Throughout the entire state, rangers helped at 350,859 incidents. Most “assists” are to help drivers with disabled cars. The Road Rangers also help at accident scenes. When Rangers arrive before police, they play a critical role in traffic management, setting up flashing warning signs and reflective cones to direct oncoming traffic around the disabled cars. Sometimes they are first to spot debris in travel lanes, a hazard that drivers might swerve to avoid and cause a crash. The safety program’s goal is to reach you within 15 minutes. Unless Rangers are handling an incident elsewhere, they’ll usually be there within a half hour, according to Nicole Forest, a transportation department official in this district. Not surprising, this work on high-speed highways is dangerous. Tragically, a Ranger was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Boca Raton in 2014. This prompts DOT officials to urge drivers to obey Florida’s “Move Over” law.
When you see emergency vehicles ahead, move over a lane if you can safely do so. If you can’t, slow down to at least 20 mph below the posted speed limit. If the posted limit is 20 mph or less, slow to just 5 mph. Rangers are busiest in high-traffic urban areas, but also help in isolated areas of Alligator Alley (I-75) without service stations. When cars run out of gas, Rangers arrive with an emergency supply. Broward Rangers cover “the Alley” to the county line where Collier County Rangers pick up the service. In areas less populated than Broward County, the service doesn’t operate ‘round the clock as it does here. But no matter where you are on these major highways. The phone number for assistance is the same: *FHP (*347). Calculating how many highway accidents, injuries, or fatalities have been prevented by this service is impossible. Surely, there were many. Since the service began in 2000, the Rangers and Safety Patrol had responded to 4.3 million “assists” by the end of 2013. By now, the number has approached or topped 5 million.
The DOT funds the program with additional support from State Farm Insurance. Contracts for the road service by private companies are managed by various department districts. If, like tens of thousands of drivers each year, your car breaks down on an interstate highway or turnpike, you’ll be grateful that Road Rangers and State Farm Safety Patrol members are there to help you. Road Rangers: Help at any hour