Free roadside assistance program now running on Georgia side of I-20

Published: Feb. 21, 2017 at 11:56 AM EST
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Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Anytime there's a wreck on I-20 drivers feel the pain from the back ups. There's a new team in town to help. They're called 'CHAMP' units and they can help with all sorts of roadside problems.

Most of us have been there.

On the side of the interstate dialing every number in our phone for help.

In just the first day of the Georgia Dept. of Transportation's new roadside assistance program champ supervisor Ronnie McNorton's pulled over to help a handful of unlucky drivers.

"I think it's been about 8 motorist that need assistance," said Ronnie McNorton.

Ronnie and the four other CHAMP drivers in the river region can help you with a lot of things, like gas, directions and even small mechanical issues, but maybe most important to us all: Traffic back ups.

"If we have an accident we will respond to the accident. Provide them traffic control," said McNorton.

CHAMP drivers will also move large debris and even abandoned cars out of the road. A job usually assigned to Richmond County deputies.

In one year deputies spend time tagging more than one hundred abandoned vehicles in the way of traffic. They use anywhere from 2 to 10 deputies just to direct cars if an accident is in a lane of traffic on the interstate.

"Some of them don't even know we are out here yet. But hopefully after today - they will know we are out here and we are out here to help them to make the scene safer," said McNorton.

In the process giving time back to Richmond County deputies to investigate the actual crash or patrol another area.

In our area there are two patrolling in the morning two at night that's just for our area of Interstate 520 starting at the SC state line. Just call 5-11 for help

Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Georgia Department of Transportation officials rolled out the Coordinated Highway Assistance & Maintenance Program in the CSRA on Tuesday.

For motorist assistance or to report a crash, infrastructure damage or debris on a Georgia interstate or state route, motorists are directed to dial 511. Callers will be asked to provide operators with their location, milepost or nearest exit number to assist CHAMPs in locating the incident.

When fully operational, CHAMP will be staffed by 48 full-time operators and 18 full-time dispatchers. A total of 51 branded, custom-fitted CHAMP trucks will patrol 16 different routes on interstates (except short stretches of I-24 and I-59) seven days a week, 16 hours a day, and will be on call the other eight hours. Operators do not accept tips or payment from the public.

Operators will cover Interstate 20 from Newton County to the S.C. line and also I-520 (Bobby Jones Expressway). In the southern part of our 27-county area, Interstate 16 will also be part of the program.

CHAMPs will provide quick response to maintenance issues; enhance proactive maintenance by providing immediate district notification on bridge/roadway damage, signs down, markings missing, signal malfunction, commercial vehicle crashes and spills and other major maintenance issues.

This is NOT the HERO program - instead, the service provides “eyes on the road” for both maintenance issues and incident management/response on all interstates outside the metro Atlanta area, except I-59 and I-24.

Georgia DOT said safety is its number one priority and a primary strategic goal. The department is committed to enhancing roadway maintenance functions and providing motorist assistance on all interstates within the state.