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One Madison County resident wanted to know what happens to cars left on the shoulder of Interstate 75 and who foots the bill when it needs to be towed as part of our Ask It Madison County series.

Many drivers have seen them -- parked on the side of the road, sometimes with a flat tire or the hood propped up -- but they are almost always abandoned, with no driver in sight. In those instances, vehicles left on the shoulder of an interstate may be removed after six hours, according to Kentucky State Trooper Robert Purdy.

For county or city roads, vehicles are considered abandoned and may be impounded after three straight days. And any motor vehicles left on the right-of-way of a state highway for three consecutive days can also be assumed that it's abandoned and may be removed by calling a tow truck, Purdy continued.

If a vehicle is creating a traffic hazard or is in a tow zone, it may be necessary to tow the vehicle immediately before the owner can return.

Sometimes, when an arrest is made after a traffic stop and doesn't involve the vehicle the arrestee was in, as long as the vehicle is off the traveled portion of the road and does not otherwise constitute a traffic hazard, the arresting officer should make some effort to arrange for the removal of the vehicle if requested by the arrestee (e.g. tow truck, friend or relative). But in all instances when a tow truck is required to remove a vehicle from the interstate, county or city, the owner is the one who foots the bill, according to Purdy.

But sometimes, people park it on the shoulder of the interstate to wait for help due to car troubles. For most, the first reaction is to get out of their vehicle, which can be dangerous. In December 2018, 61-year-old Taunya Matsuda was struck multiple times by vehicles after she got out of her car to flag someone down for help.

"We recommend that drivers remain inside their vehicle with their seatbelt fastened," Purdy said. "If drivers feel the need to exit their vehicle, move as far away from the roadway as possible and always be aware of oncoming motorists."

Most people carry cell phones with them, which can come in handy if one is experiencing car trouble on the interstate. Purdy recommends contacting someone, whether it is a family member or law enforcement, as soon as one pulls over. Motorists should turn on their flashing hazard lights as well.

Other reasons why a vehicle might be left on the interstate or a highway is due to weather conditions. When bad snow storms hit, such as the ones a few years back, roads become impossible to drive on, but motorists still attempt the drive anyway.

This often results in vehicles becoming stuck in the snow or sliding off the road into embankments. Those who become stuck should attempt to get the vehicle back on the roadway, if possible, according to Purdy.

"However if that is not possible, we recommend that drivers call authorities to inform them of their vehicle's description and location," Purdy said. "Bear in mind, if the abandoned vehicle creates a safety risk for other motorists, it will be removed as soon as possible."

Kentucky has a resource available to motorists during such weather situations, called SAFE Patrol, or Safety Assistance for Freeway Emergencies. The service operates seven days a week on Kentucky interstates and parkways.

SAFE Patrol drivers are equipped with blankets, shovels, reflective cones, auto fluids and other equipment to get motorists back on the road safely. Motorists can request the SAFE Patrol by calling: 1-877-FOR-KYTC (1-877-367-5982).

In the event a motorist has to abandoned their vehicle before SAFE can arrive, Purdy recommends calling the local emergency dispatch center to let them know their location and description of the vehicle.

The SAFE Patrol program has come to the aid of stranded motorists and law enforcement to provide nearly 350,000 assists on major highways throughout the state in the last decade. SAFE Patrol was first established in 2004 in an effort to enhance incident management, assist motorists, aid law enforcement and keep traffic moving safely.

Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynskovran.

Driving safely in winter

Below are tips for driving in snow and ice for the winter season:

• Avoid non-essential travel if conditions are dangerous.

• Check the forecast and plan ahead for your trip.

• Make sure your vehicle is sufficiently winterized -- check the battery, antifreeze level, heater, defroster, wipers and windshield washer.

• Dress warmly for the weather -- in layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, in anticipation of unexpected emergencies.

• Try to keep your gas tank at least two-thirds full to prevent fuel line freezing and in preparation for possible lengthy delays on the roadway.

• Make sure a friend or relative is aware of your travel route.

• Carry a cell phone.

• Make sure your vehicle has an emergency care kit. It should include jumper cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, an ice scraper, blankets, nonperishable food, a first aid kit, and traction material.

• Drive carefully. Allow plenty of time to get to your destination. Do not use cruise control.

• Give a wide berth to snow removal equipment.

• Bridges and exit and entrance ramps can be icy when other areas are not.

• Stopping in snow requires more braking distance than stopping on dry pavement -- up to four times more distance. Leave plenty of distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead.

• Be visible. Dull, cloudy days reduce visibility -- drive using low-beam headlights.

• Steer into the skid. Stay calm and ease your foot off the gas while carefully steering in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go.

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