GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new service rolled out in Kent County Tuesday as the Michigan Department of Transportation expanded its Safety Service Patrol, a roadside assistance program.

“With Grand Rapids being the second largest city in the state, this is going to be a huge service and a benefit for everybody,” MDOT spokesman John Richard said.

The Safety Service Patrol has been in the metro Detroit area for decades. Now, drivers will start seeing its red and white roadside assistance vans in the Grand Rapids region.

“Motorists seem to crash into each other all day long, no matter what the weather conditions,” Richard said. “These guys are here to help. It’s a free service to the motoring public. They make over 100 stops a day. I don’t know how they have time for it. Abandoned vehicles, vehicles that are in a crash, out of gas, there are so many things they stop for all day long.”

Drivers are not able to call the service. Rather, the vans are out patrolling and get dispatched to where problems pop up. The vans will mostly stick to US-131, I-196 and I-96 in Kent County.

“We have socket wrenches, abandoned tape for abandoned vehicles, flares, lockout kits, blankets, water, diesel, gas. We even have compressors so if you just have a flat tire, we can get that tire inflated and get you off the road as soon as possible,” Ryan Davids, a manager with IncidentClear, the vendor that runs the patrol, explained.

Last year alone, the Safety Service Patrol had more than 38,000 stops to help drivers in need.

“Our goal is if there is something we can deal with and get you off the road within 15 minutes, we will do it. If not, our goal is to stabilize the scene to make sure you are safe,” Davids said.

Each of the vans has safety warning features like florescent paint and flashing lights to help drivers see them. When you see one of the vans on the side of the road, you are asked to slow down and move over, just like you would for any other emergency vehicle or tow truck.

A Michigan Department of Transportation Safety Service Patrol van. (Oct. 31, 2022)
A Michigan Department of Transportation Safety Service Patrol van. (Oct. 31, 2022)

“As always, the No. 1 safety feature in any vehicle is the driver,” Richard said. “So if drivers can focus and pay attention at all times and follow the rules, that would be helpful for everybody. But when things do happen, the Safety Service Patrol is here to help.”

Two skilled, qualified drivers will be on watch Mondays through Thursdays between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. and Fridays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.