Posted: Jun 17, 2013 3:01 PM by MTN News
HELENA - There's a new way for Montana drivers to share their traffic concerns with the Montana Highway Patrol.
MHP has unveiled a new toll-free number to call for non-emergency traffic safety concerns: 1-855-MHP-3777.
MHP changed phone service carriers after monthly charges increased to nearly $7,575. The total monthly charges with the new carrier are estimated at $800, amounting to an annual savings of over $81,000, according to a news release.
"We had the same toll-free dispatch number for over 20 years," said Colonel Kenton Hickethier of the Montana Highway Patrol. "However, we can now save some significant taxpayer dollars by switching phone service carriers, which means that we needed to change our toll-free number as well."
Callers to the old MHP dispatch phone number will now hear a recording directing them to dial the new number.
The MHP Communications Center, located in Helena, is staffed around the clock. Last year, its dispatchers handled over 54,250 calls from around the state, asking for assistance with issues ranging from stranded motorists to reports of drunken drivers.
Hickethier emphasized that drivers should still call 911 for emergencies.
"Calls to 911 ring directly into local communications centers, and get EMS teams moving sooner," Hickethier said. "If the MHP number is dialed for a crash, our dispatchers then have to contact the local sheriff's office, who in turn call EMS. This slows the initial medical response."
Examples of when drivers should call 1-855-MHP-3777 include stranded motorists, hazardous road conditions, debris on the highway, suspicious activity at a rest area and intoxicated or dangerous drivers.
State officials say that the new number was picked to reflect Montana law enforcement's symbolic ties to the historic vigilantes. For generations, the numbers 3-7-77 have been associated with the storied vigilantes who cleaned up the gold camps in 1864 and earned a place in history.
The numbers have become a symbol of law and order and appear on the shoulder patch and car door insignia of the Montana Highway Patrol.