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Dial *999 - What's this?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Dial *999 - What's this?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
November 15, 2008

*999 is a roadside assistance telephone number in Chicagoland for reporting crashes and other roadside situations by cell phone.

When you dial that number, you should reach an operator who will connect your call to the correct agency to handle your call. Let's say that you want to report a traffic crash.

Dial *999. Tell the operator where the crash is. She or he will connect your call to a nearby police agency. Give them the complete details, such as location, direction, number of vehicles, likelihood of serious injuries, etc. Stay on the line if requested.

I use it to report obvious motorist needs for assistance, such as an occupied vehicle stopped on the inside shoulder of the Tollway against the guardrail. That is an emergency waiting to happen, especially if the driver leaves the vehicle and/or attempts to run across 3-4 lanes to the outside shoulder.

Sure, many drivers have cell phones and can call for help on the own; many do not. On the Tollway I just dial the direct number for the Tollway headquarters and dispatcher, which is 630/241-6800. You might want to add this number to your cell phone directory, if you travel the Tollway frequently. Just punch "0" when the phone is answered to reach an operator 24/7. Ask for a dispatcher.

*999 should be answered 24/7 and promptly; however, during rush-hour expect a delay. The other night I was on "hold" for 5+ minutes and gave up. I guess I could have dialed 911 to report a three-car, rear-end accident. The middle car got sandwiched, and the back end was really crunched. Maybe I should have stopped, but other drivers were standing around and no one appeared to be assisting any injured driver in the middle car. The safest thing was to keep going and not stop on the shoulder where emergency responders might want to stop.

When you stop in traffic, how close to the car in front do you stop? Right on its bumper? Think about what will happen if you are rear-ended! Pow! Right into the car in front of you. So then you have damage on the back and on the front. And maybe additional injury. Your neck and back won't like getting slammed into from behind, and they won't like it any better when you hit the car in front.

Do drivers frequently stop close behind you? Allow even more room in front of you. Have you noticed how, when you do that and then slowly roll forward to gain space behind you, then the jerk behind you rolls right up on your bumper again?

There oughta be a law...

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