*55 gives drivers another emergency option - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

*55 gives drivers another emergency option

*55 gives drivers another emergency option
By: CJ Cassidy

Who would you call if you spotted someone driving dangerously? Most people would say 911. But if you live in the Show Me State, there's an alternative. Simply dial *55 on your cell phone.

When you dial 911 on your cell phone, depending on who your service provider is - that call could go to just about any emergency agency. Dial *55 on your cell phone, and it takes the guesswork out.

It's a free call and it goes directly to the nearest Missouri Highway Patrol Headquarters. Calls coming in are immediately tracked on the computer, and a dispatcher uses GPS devices to figure out where the closest trooper is.

Then, within a matter of seconds, help is on the way. More than 120,000 calls a year come in to emergency operators across the state, and the program itself has been around for 18 years; so it's perhaps surprising then that many folks in Southeast Missouri don't seem to know about it at all. "I've never heard of it," Ralph Walker of Wappappello says.

Green signs on the highways remind motorists to call * 55 for help, or to report anything dangerous you see on the highways. "We receive calls of careless drivers, accidents and stranded motorists," Operator Dawn Moore with the Highway Patrol explains.

Troopers say most drivers don't hesitate to call when it comes to complaining about someone they think could be drunk or under the influence of drugs. One woman we spoke with says dialing *55 helped bring her some peace of mind, after spotting a stranded motorist. She couldn't just pass her by - and feared it might not be safe to stop. "We saw a lady walking around side of the road around eleven o'clock at night, so I called to get help somebody to come look," Brenda Hart of Poplar Bluff says.

Troopers hope you do the same. The program itself costs the Missouri Highway Patrol on average about $10,000 a year. That's for the cost of having an 800 number for land lines. Cell phone calls are provided free through service providers.

Kentucky and Illinois have similar programs. Drivers in Kentucky can call 511. It's a number for travel information, but you can also report road incidents. Illinois has a number for drivers in the Chicago area, but in Southern Illinois your best bet is to call 911.

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