INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Transportation’s Hoosier Helpers saw an increase in drivers running out of gas on Indiana highways during the first half of the year. 13 Investigates reviewed six months of data which showed 300 more drivers in need of gas assistance compared to last year.
Hoosier Helper Brian Hanes let 13News follow him for a couple of hours in July. Hanes said he’s noticed the increase in drivers needing help with fuel as gas prices went up.
“I was filling up my gas can probably every day,” he said. “It’s calmed down a little bit, but it’s still very active as far as people running out of fuel and what not. It does happen quite a bit.”
INDOT shared Hoosier Helper data for the first six months of 2021 and 2022.
From January to June of 2022, all Level 3 events were up by 8%. Level 3 events are considered critical events that keep traffic moving. These types of events include drivers needing a jump start, minor repair, tire change, as well as help with gas.
Fuel events were up 34% year over year. In 2021, on average, 150 people a month needed help with gas, but it increased to about 200 a month during the first half of 2022. April and May saw the highest increase with requests, up more than 50% and 62%, respectively.
These numbers do not include assistance for diesel vehicles. Those numbers were up significantly as well. However, Hoosier Helpers handles a much smaller number of those cases.
INDOT says the increase is likely due to a variety of reasons – more expensive gas prices, but also due to more people out driving as pandemic fears waned.
AAA also noticed an increase in fuel-related calls compared to 2021. Reporting 194,317 out-of-gas calls nationally during the first four months of the year. However, it says those numbers are lower than before the pandemic, so it can’t say if the increase is due to higher gas prices. AAA says it may be a sign of more normal driving habits.
AAA and Hoosier Helpers both provide some gas when a driver runs out. Hoosier Helpers carry two five-gallon gas tanks filled with regular and diesel fuel.
“Give them what we can,” Hanes said. “It’s typically about a gallon so they can get to a gas station. Sometimes a little more, it just depends. Sometimes they’re on an incline and it just won’t pick up. Give them average about a gallon.”
13News watched as Hanes assisted people with flat tires. He couldn’t get Booker Lee’s vehicle back on the road, but the driver still appreciated the helping hand. Lee was happy to learn Hoosier Helpers also assists with fuel when needed.
“I know it’s hard times right now for a lot of people, so any help right now is a big relief,” Lee said.
AAA reported Tuesday Indiana’s gas prices are on par with the national average which is now under $4 a gallon.