Connecticut DOT: Road Aid, Good Samaritans
Connecticut Good Samaritans
Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader
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?
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.