The Arthurs' stalled car could have been a major Labor Day obstacle to travelers who filled the roads on the summer's holiday.
Kenny Arthur, of Forestville, was driving his parents home from a family reunion in Richmond when their Pontiac broke down.
Northbound traffic on Interstate 95 near Woodbridge was at a crawl by the time the yellow truck arrived bearing help in the person of Mike Peterson, a Virginia Department of Transportation safety service patrolman.
"I helped them identify the problem and got them some help," Peterson said. "That's about all we can do."
Peterson is one of six Virginia Transportation Department workers who patrolled sections of I-95, I-395 and I-495 in a coordinated effort to keep minor problems from stretching into 20-mile backups. The program, which went into 24-hour operation in July, puts patrol officers on the road equipped with gasoline, flares, antifreeze and fire extinguishers to help stranded motorists with common problems. They also make phone calls and contact emergency vehicles.
According to Transportation Department statistics, 250,000 vehicles were expected to pass through I-95 between Springfield and the Capital Beltway -- the busiest stretch in Virginia -- as the weekend wound down, said agency spokeswoman Mary Anne Reynolds.
And radio requests came in a steady stream from a dispatcher: a disabled truck on I-95 near Dale City, a stranded motorist on I-66 in Fairfax County and a deserted vehicle on the Shirley Highway near Alexandria. Officials said they expected to aid 60 motorists between noon yesterday and 4 a.m. today.
"The faster we can get them back on the road, the safer the roads are," explained supervisor Pete Todd.