The Virginia Department of Transportation announced there will be an increase of Safety Service Patrols starting immediately.

The increase of SSP began on Monday. In the local region, Ken Slack, communications specialist with VDOT Staunton district, said the increase went from 13 trucks to 20.

SSP, a free program that covers about 846 miles of interstate, helps drivers with tire changes, jump starts, directions and more. The goal is to help people as quickly as possible and keep traffic moving. Duties include short term traffic control, scene management, detecting disruptions in traffic, minimizing incident duration, scene assistance for first responders, clearing obstructions and more.

The expansion follows the 2018 Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan and funding made available during the 2019 reconvened session of the General Assembly.

“Implementing the improvements identified in the I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan is expected to result in an annual reduction of 450 crashes and six million hours of delay,” Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said in a press release. “The increased Safety Service Patrols allow us to begin immediately making I-81 safer and more reliable.”

In the local area, the Northwest region, a route was added in Augusta County on I-81 mile markers 205 through 235.

“With this addition, thanks to the funding that’s come through, we now have full coverage on I-81,” Slack said. “This coverage expansion will improve service on Interstate 81.”

SSP members drive their area for a 12 hour shift: 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. They’re on the road 365 days and patrol is added at times of holiday travel or inclement weather.

In addition to I-81, the SSP program was also expanded on I-66. In the local region, there are also routes on I-64. A route goes from Staunton to Crozet — which covers Staunton, Waynesboro and Afton areas — and another route goes from mile marker 107 to 136.

Slack said backups on the interstate can be caused by various incidents. They can be as big in size as a vehicle crash or fire, or as small as a disabled vehicle on the shoulder of the road.

“We have found that the SSP is vital in helping minimize the time and the backup from these kinds of incidents,” Slack said. “Anytime you’ve got slowed or stopped vehicles on the interstate you have opportunities for crashes.”

For more information on SSP, visit virginiadot.org/travel/safetypatrol.asp.

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