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Connecticut DOT: Road Aid, Good Samaritans

Updated on December 7, 2017
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU in 1964. Worked in NYC for 2 years in public relations then as reporter and editor before retiring from The Hour newspaper.

Connecticut Good Samaritans

Connecticut state vehicles provide motorist assistance such as changing flat tires, jump starting, pushing vehicles to shoulders, providing fuel and offering shelter weekdays and selected holidays.
Connecticut state vehicles provide motorist assistance such as changing flat tires, jump starting, pushing vehicles to shoulders, providing fuel and offering shelter weekdays and selected holidays.

Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader

Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader, whose book, "Unsafe at Any Speed," criticized the safety record of American automobile manufacturers and, principally, the Chevrolet Corvair.
Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader, whose book, "Unsafe at Any Speed," criticized the safety record of American automobile manufacturers and, principally, the Chevrolet Corvair.

Not long after Henry Ford introduced his Model T in 1908 -- and no doubt even before the "Tin Lizzie" hit the road -- some of the country's first motorists found themselves stuck on American roadways.

Perhaps they were axle deep in mud, or maybe they found themselves with a flat tire (in those days they patched the tires right there on the roadside.) It could be they had engine trouble, or, maybe, they just couldn't get the darned thing cranked up.

Whatever the cause of their woes, the goggle-equipped motorists had one thing in common. No one was likely to rush to their rescue, unless, by happenstance, a good Samaritan was nearby.

Out of Gas

Over the years, my old wrecks often decorated the side of the road; sometimes they were just out of gas, but often they were disabled for mechanical reasons -- broken water pumps, clogged fuel pumps, snapped fan belts, or, on one occasion, a worn out starter.

In any event, it occurred to me way back then that motorists shouldn't be forced to fend for themselves when they break down.

Possibly influenced by some of Ralph Nader's efforts to help consumers, I came to the conclusion that there should be some organized assistance for disabled motorists.

Thus, I was naturally delighted months ago when I learned of the efforts of a private organization, namely First Union, formerly First Fidelity, to provide a Good Samaritan van specifically designed to help distressed motorists.

CHAMP: A Good Samaritan

And, my pleasure was heightened in April when the Connecticut Department of Transportation began CHAMP, the Connecticut Highway Assistance Motorist Patrol. Under the program, state employees patrol some of our major highways and provide what help they can under the circumstances, such as performing minor repairs.

The state workers also remove debris from roadways, provide travel information and report on state property damage to such things as downed guardrails or inoperable lighting.

As much as I like what's happening, I'd feel better if the state were acting for purely humanitarian reasons; instead, the state's interest is more in getting disabled cars off the road and easing any traffic backups.

Where's the Government?

It also would be better by far if the program were federally funded, and if motorists were helped not only in the Nutmeg state but throughout the country. In fact, some states may need the program more than we do.

Why doesn't this country have a better mechanism for handling this kind of problem? Why is it necessary to wait years, or even decades, to develop programs like CHAMP that we all know are needed now?

Must we wait for some local, state or national legislator to put a bill in the hopper and seek -- town by town, city by city, state by state -- approval of a CHAMP-type program?

Awaiting Legislative Process

And must we then wait for a groundswell of public support to push other legislators, mayors and governors to back the idea? And wait longer still to find funding for the effort? Then wait additional months or years while the idea works its way through legislative wrangling, lost votes and resurrected or watered-down bills?

Let's hope the CHAMP program will serve as an example that other states, and the federal government, will want to follow without delay.

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaperof Norwalk, Conn., on July 13, 1996. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.

Should Government Create Programs to Help Stranded Motorists?

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A Good Samaritan Comes to the Rescue

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    • William F. Torpey profile image
      Author

      William F Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Back in the 1950's and '60's, JamaGenee, my old cars were always breaking down, but it's amazing how many good samaritans came to my rescue. They were common, every day friendly strangers. You don't see that much any more. But I'm not giving up. I'm still hopeful that we'll return to those days of yesteryear when the profit motive was secondary to good citizenship. But then I'm still dreaming of a White Christmas!

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Helping each other, and local governments helping its citizens, used to be common in the U.S. These days, sadly, most anything done by local government FOR citizens out of common decency is a tax burden to be gotten rid of by outsourcing the "service" to private contractors whose only goal is PROFIT. Meanwhile, things that city fathers and state legislatures don't dare outsource are woefully under-funded. Local schools can't pay teachers a living wage, roads and bridges are crumbling, and hospitals would love to refuse treatment to anyone who doesn't have gold-plated insurance and think nothing of having for-profit collection agencies hound those they do treat who can't pay. Government-funded roadside assistance in my state? Dream on!

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 10 years ago from London UK

      I fully agree!! I wish i was active complaining in writing to politicians and mayors and the prime minister to complain about the poor services and other crazy laws and legislations but unfortunately it would end up being a full time career!

    • William F. Torpey profile image
      Author

      William F Torpey 10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I'm a little disappointed, comp-smart, that your stranded motorists have to pay for their coverage -- as most do here in the U.S. This is one function government could do more efficiently than private enterprise.

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 10 years ago from London UK

      William, Stranded motorists here don't get help if they are not covered!

    • William F. Torpey profile image
      Author

      William F Torpey 10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I'd love to see the Good Samaritan service everywhere in the world, compu-smart. I'm delighted to learn that stranded motorists are not ignored in your part of the world.

    • William F. Torpey profile image
      Author

      William F Torpey 10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks, MrMarmalade. It so happens I was visiting one of your hubs (Blind Obedience) at the exact same time you were visiting mine.

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 10 years ago from Sydney

      You are so right

      Thank you for a great hub

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 10 years ago from London UK

      The idea sounds champion to me!!

      I know we have the AA and RAC to help stranded motorists but i don't think there are any special services made for disabled people!! This kind of service ought to be obligatory everywhere..!

      ;)

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