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Interstate Call Boxes Hung Up For Good
GAINESVILLE--The Florida Department of Transportation has begun to remove the call boxes on mile markers along all interstates.
When they were first installed forty years ago, drivers whose cars had broken down used them to call for help. But with the rise of cellphones, the call boxes are used less and less every year.
"In 2004 there were 8,900 calls. Over the years that's declined to around two maybe 3,000 calls in a year," said Gina Busscher, public information officer for the Florida Department of Transportation. "And that's all of I-75, all the way from the Georgia line down to Fort Lauderdale where I-75 actually ends."
It's those sorts of statistics, Busscher said, that led FDOT to decide there is no longer a need for call boxes.
"The technology is outdated; it's costing us a lot of money when they are not being used," Busscher said.
That amount of money is upwards of a million dollars, according to Busscher.
"It's an excellent idea. With cell phones now you don't need them," said Randy Bell, a driver.
Despite the rising cost and lack of use, not all drivers think removing the call boxes is a good idea.
"I think if you're out on the highway, you need a phone. It's a very important thing to have," said Ron Lunger, a driver.
"I do have a cell phone, but sometimes it goes dead and I don't have a car charger--so if anything were to happen to me on I-75 I'd probably be stuck, I'd have no idea how to get in touch with anyone. I still don't think it's a good idea," said Alexandria Theodor, another driver.
But the Florida Highway Patrol believes removing the call boxes won't pose much of a problem, due to the success of their "Star FHP" program.
"Even with the call boxes, we get plenty of calls from other drivers reporting cars they'll see on the side of the road," said Tracy Hisler-Pace, spokeswoman for FHP Troop B.
Both FHP and FDOT said if you do happen to get stuck on the side of the road without a cellphone, flashing your emergency lights and popping your hood open is the universal way to tell people know you need help.
All 2,752 call boxes along Florida's interstates will be removed by January 31, 2014, according to the state's removal plan.
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