Patrol saving the day on freeways


POSTED: Monday, July 13, 2009

Michelle Ferrara just picked up a new double bed in Ewa on Wednesday and was driving her truck east on the H-1 freeway when she noticed the mattress was missing.

“;One minute it was there, the next minute it was gone,”; said Ferrara.

“;I was terrified,”; she said. “;I didn't know what to do till he showed up.”;

The “;he”; was Freeway Service Patrol driver Kevin Kaawa, who pulled over to help Ferrara two minutes after the mattress went missing.

Kaawa and his co-worker helped Ferrara retrieve the mattress from the side of the freeway, hauled it into the truck and made sure it was secure.

“;It's wonderful that they do this. I couldn't have done it myself,”; said the three-months-pregnant Ferrara.

She hugged the worker before driving away.

This was a typical job for Kaawa as one of the drivers with the patrol, a free program created by the Department of Transportation that assists motorists on the H-1 and Moanalua freeways. Patrol workers tow vehicles to designated drop points, change flat tires, jump-start batteries, offer gas refills and remove debris from the roads. Drivers are also trained in CPR and first aid.

In its first 14 working days of operation, June 17 to last Wednesday, the program has averaged 61 assists a day, helping a total 853 drivers.

“;Their first reaction is, 'Is this free?'”; Kaawa said. “;They're so glad cause they don't have to do anything.”;

On average, Kaawa said he helps five people a day with each assist taking five to 20 minutes. “;I like to go out to help people. It's very rewarding on that part.”;

People are often so grateful they try to pay him, but drivers are not allowed to accept tips. “;A lot of times people slip money in my hand and I just leave my hand open. They say, 'Come on brah, nobody gonna know,' but I tell them, 'God knows.' Then they shake my hand and walk away,”; Kaawa said.





        The Department of Transportation has received 34 survey cards from drivers helped by the Freeway Service Patrol. Some comments from completed surveys:

» “;Thank you! I did not have to call my roadside assistance provider and did not create a traffic back log.”;


» “;The Freeway Service Patrol was able to respond before AAA, which I had called earlier.”;


» “;Great job. Glad that this service was created.”;


» “;Very quick response time, speedy service & friendly service man—very great program.”;


» “;Moe was extremely helpful & friendly. This could have been a very distressful situation without Moe's assistance & I truly appreciate his help as well as the Freeway Service Patrol.”;




At 2:24 p.m. Kaawa received a call from dispatch about a Handi-Van stalled in the middle lane on the Tripler offramp. After pulling behind the Handi-Van, Kaawa assessed the situation and set up cones to divert traffic to the shoulder of the road.

Handi-Van driver Thomas Castro said the van stalled on the way to Tripler Army Medical Center, shutting down for 15 minutes. Castro said he had never heard of the program, but thinks that it is a great service.

“;It's marvelous. We can use all the help we can get, especially on this island with all the cars. Faster than the HPD,”; said Castro.

Patrol workers give drivers a survey card to fill in and return. Of 34 completed surveys, 97 percent rated the service excellent, and 50 percent said they received service within five to 10 minutes.

“;All expectations of the program has been far exceeded, and I think what's more important is that the expectations of the public has been exceeded as well,”; said Transportation Director Brennon Morioka.

The project is scheduled to operate for two years with an option to continue and expand.

“;It's a brand-new program for us, so we need to make sure that we iron out all the wrinkles, which is why we're giving it some time,”; said Morioka. “;But (expansion) may be sooner than expected.”;