Image courtesy Edward Ringwald
Tampa, Florida -- Drivers may not have even noticed, but in the Tampa Bay area you won't see any more emergency call boxes. Florida is in the process of removing all of them -- nearly 3,000 across the state.
Department of Transportation officials call the system "antiquated", because these days nearly everyone has a cell phone.
"Really, they weren't being used," said Tampa FDOT spokesperson Kris Carson, who notes that no calls were made from along I-4 last year.
Use of the call boxes has dropped significantly over the years. Back in 2004, about 22,000 people pushed buttons for help, but in 2012 just under 8,000 calls came in.
Instead of the call boxes, FDOT says its extensive network of roadway cameras and patrolling road rangers are there to detect and help motorists in need.
"We can see cars that are disabled," said Carson. "We can dispatch road rangers very quickly. lt's not worth maintaining those boxes. We're saving over a million dollars a year by taking them off the roads."
But people posting to the 10 News Facebook page overwhelmingly like the boxes.
Shay Torres writes: "My family had to use one for me when I went into diabetic shock and our phone battery died."
And travelers at a Hillsborough rest stop say the emergency boxes give them an extra feeling of safety.
"Big mistake," says Sara Earling of Daytona Beach. "There's other places they can save. They don't need to be taking away our security."
Adam Khail of Georgia says cell phones die and don't always have reception.
"Cell phones aren't always that reliable, so I think having something on the side of the road would be good regardless."
The one place call boxes will remain is on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Those bright red boxes connect directly to crisis counselors.
If you do have car trouble or spot someone else who needs help, transportation officials suggest you dial *FHP. All the call boxes will be gone by January.