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Virginia State Police ending motorist assistance program, but it's not all bad news

The program will still be available through VDOT.

September 19, 2012|Susan Bahorich | WDBJ7 Reporter

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. — It's a service Virginia State Police have been offering for nearly three decades, but it will cease to exist in December.

The Motorist Assistance program is going away.

But, out drivers won't necessarily end up stranded.

Motorist Assistance cars cruise busy roads like Interstate 81 looking to help stranded motorists.

Even though state police are ending the program, VDOT will be picking up the slack.

For the last four years, Dennis Fisher has been in the driver's seat as a member of the Motorist Assistance team.

“It was something I was interested in doing, it's one of those things - you help the public,” Fisher said.

On any given day, Fisher's white Crown "Vic" is like a white stallion to the rescue of stranded drivers dealing with any number of issues.

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“Combination of flat tires and out of gas. We respond to traffic accidents and things like that and help with traffic,” Fisher said.

“Many people are comforted because someone else is sitting there with them,” Virginia State Police 1st Sergeant Jerry Smith said. “Someone in uniform that they can trust that will sit with them or stay with them until service arrives.”

But, come December that comfort, which started in the 1980s, is coming to end.

Eleven full time and 22 part-time positions will be eliminated.

“So we don't have duplication of services, we decided to phase out our Motor Assistance program,” Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller said.

Earlier this year the Virginia Department of Transportation revived its version of the program called, Safety Service Patrol.

State police says VDOT money used to fund its program will now be redistributed.

“So, by us transitioning out of the Motorist Assistance program and letting VDOT take the lead for motorist assistance with their traffic safety patrollers, we're actually able to retain that funding and convert those MA positions into full-time trooper positions,” Geller said.

Eight full-time trooper positions will be added with the freed up money.

Those troopers are dedicated to Highway Safety Corridors.

There are three in the commonwealth, including one on Interstate 81.

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