Larry Greenfield helps control traffic flow along Route 7 and the Dulles Toll Road.
Greenfield created TrafficFlex, a Northern Virginia-based cell phone service. The service provides a forum for commuters to call in, ask for advice and give updates on traffic. Greenfield hosts the show.
“I greet them, ask for their first name and where they’re located,” he said. “Callers can get tips and help out other commuters.”
Although the service is Northern Virginia-based, the majority of callers are from Loudoun County.
GREENFIELD compared the cell phone service to the CB radio, popular in the 1970s.
“I never used a CB radio, but I knew people who used to use them,” he said. “They’d get on their CBs, tell each other what’s going on. Now, when you're stuck in traffic you have no one to talk to.”
Greenfield said there is a need for the service.
“The Dulles Toll Road and Route 7 are ignored on traffic radio,” he said. “They’re overshadowed by [routes] 95 and 495. There’s a need for the service.”
The cell phone service not only provides traffic tips, updates and alternative routes, but there is a social aspect to it.
“Some people are mindful of their minutes, but others hang out and chat while they’re sitting in traffic,” Greenfield said. “We have live people on the line, willing to contribute.”
AAA MID Atlantic spokesperson John Towsend said the concept of TrafficFlex is a great idea, but is concerned that drivers may become distracted while talking on their cell phones.
In a recent study of 100 drivers conducted by the National Highway Traffic Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute researchers found that distracted drivers are one of the leading causes of vehicle crashes in the country.
“Use caution and analyze the risks,” Towsend advised. “Your ability to react is impaired when your mind is distracted.”
Towsend said it is important for drivers to be aware of what is going on, on the road.
“You have to ask yourself, is it better to have information about the flow of traffic or to be safe behind the wheel.”
Towsend suggested drivers make phone calls while stopped or in the garage or the driveway.
“Try not to stay on the phone too long,” he said. “You have to bring you’re ‘A’ game when driving.”
THE SERVICE is free and Greenfield said he hopes to keep it that way, with the help of advertising. The service requires a land line or cell phone and there is nothing to install, Greenfield said. Commuters just have to dial 703-636-2253 to access the service.
“I hope the service will eventually take on the flavor of a radio talk show,” he said.“ We usually have two to five callers on the line at a time."
Although the line is always open, Greenfield moderates the calls between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
"Anyone can call and give us their input," he said. "Help each other out."