Grateful motorists share tales of assistance on Georgia highways

CHAMP units patrol Georgia highways outside metro Atlanta.

Earlier this year the Georgia Department of Transportation rolled out its Coordinated Highway Assistance & Maintenance Program (CHAMP) program – safety and maintenance patrols to help stranded motorists and clean debris from interstate highways.

The CHAMP units – comparable to the HERO units that patrol metro Atlanta highways – were fully operational statewide in May. And thousands of motorists have already benefitted.

So far, the CHAMP units have assisted more than 17,500 motorists, State Traffic Engineer Andrew Heath told a State Transportation Board committee Wednesday. The units also have handled 174 serious tractor trailer incidents – rollovers, jackknifes and other incidents that required a heavy tow truck.

Meanwhile, the HERO units have assisted 65,101 Atlanta-area motorists and handled another 124 tractor trailer incidents, Heath reported.

“We’re very rapidly approaching 100,000 assists to motorists” in 2017, Heath said.

Many of those motorists were so grateful they took the time to thank GDOT in writing. Here’s an example, which will give you a sense of the kind of service the CHAMP and HERO units provide:

Hello, recently in early July I was traveling back from Florida and got a flat on 95 north in Georgia after passing by Savannah. I have AAA and so I contacted them. While waiting for their assistance, Mr. Travis Anderson from CHAMP pulled up and offered his assistance. He was heaven sent! He was professional, sincere, knowledgeable and just made me feel at ease. Not only did he change me tire within 5 minutes, but he helped me unpack and repack my trunk. I was traveling with my 3 children and my dog and so our trunk was fully packed. I wanted to express my thank you to your program as well as Mr. Anderson for his help that day. God Bless you all, angels on the highway!

And here’s another:

I am writing to thank you for the tremendous help provided to me yesterday by your CHAMP program and to commend the employee who helped me.

We lived for much of our lives in Georgia, but now in Alabama. While returning home from a trip on I-85, a tire went flat. At my age, I wasn’t looking forward to putting on the spare with freeway traffic flying by. Fortunately, about the time I got my spare out of the trunk, a CHAMP truck pulled up. He had seen us while headed in the opposite direction, and it’s good that he did, as I did not know about 511 and the CHAMP program, so I would not have called. He was professional and courteous, quickly getting us back on the road, and talking me through the options for repair/replacement of my flat. What could have been a dangerous, lengthy delay turned into a minor inconvenience.

Obviously, I’m now a big fan of the program. But beyond that, I think the employee represented GDOT so well that I want you to know about him.  Unfortunately, I do not know his name. However, I suspect you can identify him from the following details: the incident occurred on I-85 southbound, between Mileposts 160 and 154 (just northeast of Commerce), around 10AM on Wednesday, June 28th.

I hope this e-mail will eventually get to him, and the program supervisor, so that he can receive the recognition he deserves. I also hope it gets to the Commissioner, to reinforce the value of the program when the next budget cycle comes around. It’s one of those unfortunate, but unavoidable, truths that the public generally associates GDOT (or ALDOT in my case) with lane closures, potholes, and other driving frustrations. A program like CHAMP really turns that around, letting us see you as a helping hand, and a positive force.

So how can you call a CHAMP or HERO unit if you’re stranded? It’s easy. Just dial 511.

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