Help is now available for disabled motorists along the heavily traveled Interstate 81 corridor in Virginia. The newly formed Safety Service Patrols began operations on July 1.

Similar to the Courtesy Patrol in neighboring West Virginia, the new Virginia side unit will provide assistance to disabled motorists. This includes providing help with tire changing, providing fuel to get to the nearest gas station, jump starting vehicles, providing water for overheating radiators, and providing phone access to contact local tow and recovery services or seek directions.

The Safety Service Patrols are a part of the new Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan recently enacted by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The hope is that the new safety patrols can minimize delays caused by disabled motorists, crashes and other incidents along the interstate corridor.

Locally, the I-81 corridor extends into both Wythe and Giles counties. So area residents will benefit from this new service.

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Safety Service Patrols program primarily focuses on incident management and emergency response, which includes detecting incidents and disruptions in traffic, minimizing incident duration, clearing obstructions and debris from the roadway, establishing temporary traffic control for emergency responders and providing scene assistance as needed.

The new safety unit will consist of 14 patrol trucks and 12 full-time drivers. The program operates seven days a week, with additional coverage as needed during inclement weather and holiday travel periods.

It is good to know that these new workers will be available to assist motorists who are stranded or experiencing a motor-vehicle breakdown.

It should also be noted that VDOT is planning further improvements to the I-81 corridor in the months ahead, including additional real-time traffic camera coverage and new dynamic message boards to inform motorists of approaching hazards and inclement weather.