KANSAS CITY, Kan. - A Lawrence woman wants answers after she was stranded on a Kansas highway for more than six hours overnight.
On July 17, Bonita Yoder was traveling back from Kansas City International Airport near midnight. As she crossed the river into Kansas, her car coasted to a stop on the shoulder of Interstate-435.
Looking down at the dashboard, Yoder realized her fuel tank was empty.
She dialed the motorist assist number on her cell phone , a service provided to drivers on both sides of the state line in the Kansas City area. The system provides assistance to drivers who have an emergency, an accident, or a vehicle breakdown.
The dispatcher told Yoder someone would be there to help in 20 to 30 minutes. As she watched and waited, the battery in her car died.
It meant the charger for her cell phone would no longer work. She watched as her only way to communicate also ran out of juice.
“I just figured someone would be there momentarily… but nobody showed up,” Yoder said.
After several hours, Yoder started waving a white shirt in the air to get the attention of other drivers as they passed by.
Eventually, a vehicle pulled over. However, Yoder said the man was pushy and kept telling her she did not need to feel threatened.
“My gut feeling was that it was not going to be a happy ending if I got in the car with him,” she said.
At dawn, a Good Samaritan finally pulled over to let Yoder use his phone to call the motorist assist number again. When the driver heard how long she had been waiting, he went to go get gas himself.
At 6:30 a.m., a motorist assist vehicle arrived, but the Good Samaritan was already fueling her tank with a gas can.
Trooper Howard Dickinson with the Kansas Highway Patrol said workers with the motorist assist program are typically only on patrol during peak hours of the day.
Late at night, the calls get dispatched to the KHP. However, when Yoder called, the nearest trooper was more than an hour away.
As a result, the call for help went to the nearest police department in Kansas City, Kan.
According to a spokesman with KCK police, an officer was dispatched to the 435 exit where Yoder was stranded just after midnight. That officer reported checking the area, but not finding anyone.
But KHP call records show Yoder called again around 6 a.m. to report she was still waiting for help.
“I don’t know what the glitch was in this case,” said Dickinson. “It all seems like it was dispatched correctly.”
Yoder admits running out of gas was a very preventable emergency. But she said there are a lot of other car problems drivers can’t always see coming.
“How can a woman be stranded all night along the side of a major Kansas highway without some kind of help arriving?” Yoder asked.
In Kansas, drivers can dial *47 on their cell phones to reach the motorist assist program . In Missouri, dial *55.
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