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511 system offers new tool for safer traveling

Dec. 22, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Motorists traveling the highways of West Virginia during this holiday season will have a new tool at their disposal.

Earlier this month, the state's Department of Transportation launched its 511 traffic information system, which is designed to give travelers access to a variety of real-time data collected by the state regarding conditions on the state's roads. Included is information about accidents, construction, weather and other events that affect traffic.

Armed with that information, motorists should be able to identify potential obstacles or roadblocks on their routes and make adjustments if necessary. The result, we hope, will be fewer surprises, less aggravation and safer journeys.

The service will offer multiple ways for people to access it. One, of course, is to use your phone and dial 511, a three-digit code the Federal Communications Commission set aside in 2000 to allow states to develop telephone systems providing free travel information. Callers to that number will be offered a menu of options from which to choose.

Also available is a website, www.wv511.org. The site contains weather maps, live radar and the messages placed on the dynamic message boards along highways in the state. You can pinpoint the route you're taking to assess conditions on the course you are taking.

A third option is application for smartphones. It delivers the same information that's on the website, but has added features. For example, it will enable the system to track where a motorist is traveling and alert him or her to traffic issues that the driver may be approaching.

Many other states already have launched 511 systems within their borders, and it's good news for travelers in the Mountain State that they now have it available, too.

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