Roadside Call Boxes Becoming Extinct
Due to the proliferation of cell phones, emergency roadside call boxes are flirting with extinction, according to a May 31 report in USA Today.Rhode Island, where the cost per call had risen to about $7,000, scrapped its 284 call boxes at the end of last year. Pennsylvania removed 102 boxes on Interstate 81 last year. Officials noted the cost to replace one box was $6,000.Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Louisiana are considering scrapping them because of the high costs. A call costs $77.61 on I-255 in Illinois, according to the USA Today report.Florida, which pays maintenance costs of "several hundred thousand dollars a month" for 2,750 devices, saw the number of calls drop from 56,000 in 1999 to 27,000 in 2002, Nick Adams, a state transportation official, told USA Today. In Pennsylvania, 16,668 motorists used them in 2004, down from 39,000 calls in 2000.Officials also noted that the technology is outdated and it is hard to get replacement parts. Also, many states now employ "smart traffic" systems with highway cameras and roving motorist assistance patrols that make the boxes obsolete. However, transportation officials in some states say the boxes remain necessary. Adams says that a large percentage of the people that don't have cell phones are the ones whose vehicles are likely to break down and need assistance, such as migrant workers and the elderly.California was sued in federal court last month by the California Association of the Deaf and four deaf individuals to keep the boxes for drivers who are deaf or hearing-impaired. They can’t use cell phones. The case is pending.