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If your car breaks down on a California highway, who should you call? Your best friend? No. Your mom? No. Your mechanic, your notary public, or your lawyer? No, no, and no. Take it from one who knows: call the Freeway Service Patrol.
Earlier this summer, the car I was driving suddenly stalled in the middle of 580. Luckily it kept rolling just far enough to reach a safe spot before dying completely. So there I was on the side of the highway in the 90-degree midday heat, waiting for a friend with AAA Emergency Roadside Service to come bail me out.
Two hours later, my friend had gotten lost and I was sweating enough to fill a small salty sea, when a tow truck with a Freeway Service Patrol logo pulled up behind me. A uniformed driver climbed out and asked me if I needed help. Most definitely yes, I replied. And in a matter of minutes, my car was towed off the freeway to a safe and shady cul-de-sac where I waited for my friend to arrive.
“Actually, I’m surprised someone didn’t spot you earlier,” the driver told me before he left. “Next time you have trouble, you should call us.”
And that’s the story of how the California Freeway Service Patrol saved me from dying of heat exhaustion on the side of the highway.
What’s the Freeway Service Patrol?
So, what exactly is the Freeway Service Patrol ? It’s a fleet of tow trucks trained, certified, and contracted by the California Highway Patrol to circulate freeways during rush hours and help motorists with car trouble. The basic idea is to keep traffic flowing smoothly and safely.
Sponsored by the California Highway Patrol, Caltrans, and local transportation agencies, the Freeway Service Patrol (FSP) has a fleet of 350 tow trucks covering over 1,750 miles of California highways.
Besides the San Francisco Bay Area , the FSP operates in 13 other areas: El Dorado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Monterey, Orange County, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz.
What services does the FSP offer?
When you’re stranded on the freeway, here’s what the Freeway Service Patrol can do to get you back up and running:
- Give you a gallon of gas
- Jumpstart a dead battery
- Change a flat tire
- Refill your radiator and tape split hoses
If the FSP can’t provide a quick fix for you, they’ll tow you off the freeway to a designated drop-off location. They can also take you to a payphone or contact the CHP for more assistance if needed.
So how do I reach the FSP?
If you have a car problem while driving on the freeway, the first thing you should do is get safely to the side of the road . To reach a dispatcher once you’re in a safe spot, dial 511 and say “Freeway Aid” or “Roadside Assistance” (it varies depending on what area you live in).
Freeway Service Patrol services are completely free during peak commute hours. If you’re stuck during non-commute hours, they can provide you with at-cost rotational tow instead.
But do keep in mind that the Freeway Service Patrol is for non-emergency situations only. If you’ve been in a collision, or if you’re stuck in live traffic or a dangerous spot, you should call 911 so the CHP can get you to safety as soon as possible.
So now you know:
But what’s even better than getting bailed out by the FSP for free is not breaking down in the first place. So remember to drive safely and keep your car properly maintained!