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IMG_0780_April-2The past several weeks have been a stressful time to say the least. Massachusetts residents had to quickly adjust to a “new normal” as businesses and schools closed and stay-at-home orders were put into place.

However, work continues for the medical professionals, emergency responders, grocery store employees, and thousands of residents who leave their homes each day to deliver essential services.

Whether traveling during this pandemic or during normal circumstances, motorists will always be subject to roadway incidents, whether it be a break down, flat tire, crash, or running out of gas. It can be a scary situation to be stuck on the side of the road and unsure of where to turn for help, especially during a pandemic. As essential first responders, the MassDOT Highway Assistance Program sponsored by MAPFRE Insurance is still patrolling the highways to keep you safe and keep you moving. The program operators have taken on new precautions and protocols to be able to continue to safely assist stranded motorists during the Coronavirus Outbreak.

Tom Tedford, the Senior Vice President of United Road Towing which operates the patrol on the major DOT highways, explains the changes that the patrol operators are making during this time. One of which is making sure the motorist remains in their vehicle during the assist in order to limit the amount of exposure between the operator and motorist.

“When our operator approaches the scene of a motor vehicle and its attendant, our operators use their P.A. system to instruct the party from the vehicle to get back into their vehicle,” Tedford says. “The operator will not approach the vehicle until the motorist is back in the vehicle with the windows up. The operator will then go and speak to them with the window cracked, at a social distance, and ask them how they can assist.”

Tom Tedford continued to explain that when a patrol operator is in close contact with a stranded motorist, as in rare situations where the motorist may need a transport, the patrol program uses PPE gear, such as masks and gloves, to wear for themselves, and for the stranded motorist who needs additional assistance. “Once the vehicle is transported and the passenger has left our vehicle, the vehicle is then taken out of service while it’s completely disinfected, cleaned and gone through, per our protocols,” Tedford states.

Tom Tedford goes on to share some stories from the road in a recent interview. One of which came from a very thankful essential worker, who reported: “On my way home with my mind all over the place, just finishing working 16 hours at the hospital, I ran out of gas. Your operator must have been right behind me once I pulled over. He pulled right up and was able to get me gas and get me on my way. I was so happy to see the state still has workers out there to help the public during this chaos. Thank you, MassDOT. Thank you, MAPFRE.”

Roads all over Massachusetts are seeing significant decreases in traffic, which has caused an increase in speeds, thus resulting in speed-related crashes. Mr. Tedford stresses the importance of slowing down and moving over when you see patrol operators on the side of the roadways. Motorists should also remain aware of their surroundings at all times on the road. “I just want to issue a huge thank you to our employees and our operators, as well as the MAPFRE and MassDOT for continuing to work through this pandemic in this program,” Tedford says. “It’s unprecedented times. We realize that and truly they have all acted like true first responders.”

You can hear more from Tom Tedford in his full interview.

Even the safest of drivers can find themselves in need of assistance, which is why the MassDOT Highway Assistance Program sponsored by MAPFRE Insurance is here to help with fixing minor mechanical problems, flat tires, fuel shortages, and emergency situations. The Highway Assistance Program drivers monitor some of the state’s busiest highways and turnpikes around Metro Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Cape Cod (seasonal). The Highway Assistance Patrol covers 13 major state roadways and interstates, the Emergency Service Patrol covers the Mass Pike (I-90) from New York to Boston and the Incident Response Operators cover the Metropolitan Highway System and tunnels. The Highway Assistance Patrol is in service Monday–Friday between the hours of 6 a.m.–10 a.m. and 3 p.m.–7 p.m. During holidays, there are extended routes in heavy traffic areas. On I-90, and in Boston’s tunnel system, assistance is provided 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.

Written By Patrick McDonald, CPCU, CEO, Northeast Region, MAPFRE Insurance

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