Few people have noticed, but the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has put a Stranded Motorist Hotline number right on the back of all Texas driver’s licenses and identification cards. Since 1989, the toll-free number has been placed right on the back of the cards to help motorists who run into car trouble on state and federal roads in Texas. The number is no substitute for 9-1-1- and is for non-emergency purposes only. Some examples of when this number can be used include: a motorist stranded with car problems, to report hazardous road conditions or debris in the roadway, suspicious activity at a rest area, and to report obviously intoxicated or dangerous drivers.
When a call is placed to the number, it is answered at DPS Austin Communications by operators who take information from motorists, such as their name, cell phone number, a description of the vehicle when applicable, highway location (usually the mile marker), and county location or city location if inside a city’s limits. The information is then sent to the relative law enforcement agency that will provide help or send a unit to check on the motorist's welfare until help arrives. However, not all cities and jurisdictions in Texas will provide a courtesy patrol, and the service does not provide motorist with free towing services or fuel. The motorist is ultimately responsible for all costs incurred.
If the stranded motorist’s vehicle is in need of a tow, the hotline operators will refer the caller to the local law enforcement agency, give the caller a number for the local law enforcement agency or courtesy patrol, or send assistance to check on the motorist’s safety until help arrives. The hotline will also refer you to someone that will give you the number of a locksmith in case you ever lock your keys in your car.
In addition to the toll-free Stranded Motorist Hotline, customers of wireless companies, ALLTEL, Nextel, AT&T/Cingular, Verizon, Sprint, US Cellular, and T-Mobile, can dial *DPS (*377) anywhere in Texas where cell phone coverage is available to report non-emergency situations. DPS encourages people to use the toll-free number they have provided for non-emergency roadside trouble, but ask the public to remember that it is not a customer service number to be used to ask routine questions about driver’s licenses.
If you are ever in a pinch with car trouble on the side of the road in Texas, remember to flip over your driver’s license and give the number a call.