Maryland's found a way to help motorists round-the-clock without spending a penny.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.'s three-year, $1.3 million sponsorship contract with the State Highway Administration (SHA) is paying for two new patrol trucks emblazoned with retroreflective tape, increasing the agency's fleet to 52 vehicles, and 8,000 hours of labor. As a result, the agency is providing emergency roadside services at night as well as during the day.

Emergency patrolling is part of the agency's Coordinated Highway Action Response Team a network of almost 1,000 communication devices like closed-circuit cameras, dynamic message signs, weather detection systems, and speed sensors deployed over 500 miles of highways and interstates to safely manage traffic flows.

The combination of technological and human interaction has lowered the average amount of time it takes to clear an incident and re-open lanes from 41 minutes seven years ago to 28 minutes today. In 2009, patrols handled 55,000 incidents.

"We have the latest technology and traffic cameras tied into our statewide operations center -- but all of it doesn't help the person with a flat tire on the side of the road, in danger of being hit by a vehicle passing by at 65 mph," says SHA Administrator Neil Pedersen. "Thanks to the dedicated drivers who work under dangerous conditions, we're able to quickly respond when people are most in need."

If your department's ever signed a sponsorship contract, PUBLIC WORKS be interested in learning what it was and how it's working out:. E-mail sjohnston@hanleywood.com.