Ever wonder about the call boxes on the side of the highways around town? Currently, 29 of the state's 58 counties have call box programs. Statewide, there are 15,000 call boxes, lining some 6,300 miles of California highways. Call boxes throughout California generate more than 100,000 calls per month.
Costs associated with the call box program are paid for by a $1 annual fee included in the County/District Fees shown on your DMV vehicle registration notice.
Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and regional "SAFE" ("Service Authority for Freeways and Expressways") agencies jointly operate the program. In Ventura County, the Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC) oversees the call box program.
Since 1985, the goal of SAFE is to quickly identify and respond to freeway incidents such as breakdowns and accidents in order to minimize their impacts in terms of congestion, public safety and air quality, and to increase the reliability of the freeway system and better manage traffic flow.
There are currently (as of September 2016) 560 active call boxes in Ventura County, roughly 40% on Highway 101, 20% on Highway 126, 15% on Highway 118 and the remainder on PCH, SR 23 and Highways 33, 34 and 150.
So the question most of you may have is, does anyone actually use call boxes given the proliferation of cell phones? The answer is...yes...but the numbers have dropped dramatically over the years.
Over the last five years, an average of roughly 3,000 calls for assistance have been made from call boxes in Ventura County each year. While this is down dramatically from the 17,000 calls made in the year 2000, they are still being used.
In recent years, 420 call boxes have been upgraded from 2G to 3G service. The remaining 141 call boxes will be removed in 2016-2017, with an anticipated cost savings of $380,000 over the next five years. This is based on a review of the SAFE program present to the Ventura County Transportation Commission in it September 9, 2016 meeting.
Visit the VCTC website at www.goventura.org to learn more about transportation options in Ventura County.
Note: Originally posted in 2013. Updated in 2016.