Roadside heroes celebrated on National Superhero Day
By Lauren Macias-Cervantes
EL PASO — National Superhero Day on April 28 celebrates superheroes of all types, and in Texas they include TxDOT’s HERO and roadside assistance field crews.
"The HERO and other courtesy patrol programs around the state are a valuable service to our traveling public on our interstates and highways," said David McDonald, the state’s traffic incident management coordinator. "These programs have had a significant impact on safety and incident management."
While other parts of the state have varied roadside assistance programs, TxDOT Districts such as Austin, El Paso and San Antonio have the Highway Emergency Response Operator program, commonly called HERO.
"We could make somebody’s day be better by them having a real bad day stranded on the side of the road, we could go ahead and help them out to be able to get out of the roadway safely," El Paso HERO driver Joshua Chavez said.
In Houston, TxDOT helps fund the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Motorist Assistance Program designed to assist stranded motorists on all area freeways. Dallas and Fort Worth have courtesy patrols and the North Texas Tollway Authority, and the North Tarrant Texpress round out the eight safety services in the state.
The goal of these programs is to improve safety and keep traffic flowing on major TxDOT highways.
"The HERO Program has helped the El Paso Police Department by maintaining the flow of traffic, which also aids the safety of the roadway," said El Paso Police Officer Adrian Cisneros. "Sometimes a stranded motorist is just out of gas or just needs a jump, and that’s the type of call that the El Paso Police Department would get, but because of the HERO program and their quick response, they’re able to get to that stranded motorist and get back on the road before we’ve even been able to get dispatched."
HERO vehicles are equipped with digital message signs and cameras that can send live images back to help with incident management.
While hours of operation vary, services are similar:
- Relocating disabled vehicles to safety
- Removing minor crashes from the roadway
- Providing traffic and lane control at crash scenes
- Removing debris from travel lanes
- Assisting with low or flat tires
- Providing gasoline and water
- Performing minor vehicle repairs
- Jump-starting batteries
- Assisting first responders at crash scenes
- Providing drinking water and cell phone services to stranded motorists
The Move Over or Slow Down law requires drivers to move over a lane or slow to 20 mph below the posted speed limit when approaching emergency vehicles, law enforcement, tow trucks, utility service vehicles, TxDOT vehicles or other highway construction or maintenance vehicles using visual signals or flashing lights on the roadside. On roadways with posted speed limits of 25 mph or less, drivers must reduce their speed to 5 mph.
"There is no doubt that the highway is a dangerous place to work," McDonald said. "The HERO’s and other courtesy patrol operators are out there to assist you, keep you safe and get you back on your way. Let’s keep them safe by giving them a safe place to work. Move Over or Slow Down for all of our responders working on our highway."
Drivers who fail to give emergency and work crews space to safely do their jobs can receive a ticket with a fine of up to $200. If there is a crash that causes injury to a worker, drivers can be fined up to $2,000.
Learn more about the HERO program or request HERO assistance.