One Way to Combat High Prices - Just Run Out of Gas
A story recently appearing in the Atlanta Journal Constitution told of a growing trend in the metro Atlanta area - people running out of gas. This is probably to be expected considering how high prices have become, but the number has me wondering if motorists have a different motive - free gas!
Free Gas in the Emergency Lane
HERO (Highway Emergency Response Operator) units patrol Atlanta's many miles of interstate looking for stranded motorists to offer assistance. When they happen upon a motorist who has run out of gas they typically add a gallon or two of gasoline, enough to get them off the interstate and to the nearest gas station. Of course, this gasoline is provided at tax payer's expense, and that expense has gone up along with recent spike in gas prices. HERO operators are now going through more gasoline in the course of a day, and spending much more per gallon than they were a year ago. This is significantly increasing the cost to provide the emergency fuel service.
A Costly Diversion
This recent increase in the number of out-of-gas incidents has another costly side-effect. As dispatchers send more and more units to respond to fuel requests, response to more serious emergencies has suffered. All of this could be avoided if drivers accepted the responsibility of monitoring their fuel gauges and filling up before hitting crowded interstates. I'm also curious why HERO units don't charge drivers for the gasoline to recoup some of the costs of providing this service. If motorists were charged a dollar or two more than the retail price of a gallon of gas, they may think twice before running on fumes in an effort to save a buck. Instead of HERO units collecting payments, drivers could be issued the equivalent of a ticket which they would have to mail in within 30 days to avoid further collection attempts.
I wouldn't be surprised if a tax increase is forthcoming to offset these additional costs. I'm all for public services, but at some point providing those services becomes cost prohibitive. Getting stalled motorists back on the road is a public safety issue, as cars stuck in the emergency lane block access for emergency vehicles, and present a potential collision obstacle for passing motorists. Instead of raising taxes on all motorists, make those who benefit from the HERO emergency fuel service pay for it. After all, the City of Atlanta probably doesn't pay for new tires for those with a flat, or replace radiators in cars that have overheated.