Illinois Tollway deploys 'Hot Weather Patrols' to help stranded drivers amid Chicago heatwave

As temperatures rise, so does the number of cars breaking down on Chicago highways. In response, the Illinois Tollway has dispatched a team of 12 special "Hot Weather Patrols" over the next few days.

Illinois Tollway maintenance worker David Frausto began his eight-hour shift as part of the special hot weather patrol team on I-294.

"We are on heat patrol," Frausto said. "I’m out here as an added safety, looking for any motorist that may be stranded or broken down on the side of the road."

With extreme heat causing tires to deflate or tear, engines to overheat, and air conditioning to fail, sitting in a broken-down car can quickly become dangerous.

"Do your preventative maintenance. Make sure you got an oil change done, your tires are inflated," Frausto advised. "If you have air conditioning, make sure that’s working properly. Bring extra water, extra liquids. Once you’re in a broken-down car, it gets real hot real quick."

During our ride-along, Frausto quickly spotted a utility truck stranded on the Lake Cook Road ramp. After calling in the truck’s plate number to dispatch, Frausto approached the driver to offer assistance.

"Trying to make sure they’re OK," Frausto said. "If they need a cool down, I let them sit in the truck for a while or get them off the highway to a safe location."

The 12 heat patrol responders cover 294 miles of Illinois Tollway, working 24/7 until the weather improves.

In the first 24 hours after the patrol began Monday morning, the Tollway reported stopping to check on or assist 153 motorists, about half of them on I-294.

As grateful as drivers are to see help arrive on a hot day, the responders also take pride in their work.

"We treat the road as if it’s our family. So when I see a patron broken down on the side of the road, we kind of look at it like ‘is that my son, my wife, my daughter?’" said Frausto. "A sense of knowing that I helped someone today. And I know that they’re safe out on the road."

During this heatwave, the Tollway has authorized its emergency responders to take stranded motorists off the highway to places where they can cool down.

"Such as gas stations, convenience stores, someplace where they can be cool and get refreshments at the same time," said Illinois Tollway Deputy Chief of Maintenance Rohan Gayle.

Frausto finds the reward of the job in helping distressed drivers beat the heat.

"People are very excited and happy we’re out here. They’ll say thank you. You’re a real blessing, an angel. You saved my life. They’re just grateful," he said.