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Editorial: DOT’s changes may help in future

We were glad to hear this week that the N.C. Department of Transportation has approved changes that may have helped in the case of still-missing jogger Rick Travis.

Travis, 66, left for a run on Feb. 11 and never returned. His disappearance prompted a massive search by a team of agencies from across the region. He was spotted on Interstate 85 on the day of his disappearance, but digital message boards on the interstate were not used to report that Travis was missing.

Travis’ disappearance has puzzled members of the community and first responders alike. Fire Division Chief Deborah Horne told the Post in March that it was “the longest search that we can recall without finding something.”

After a dedicated effort from Travis’ wife, Jean McCoy, DOT has rightly changed its policy so that law enforcement agencies or the Center for Missing Persons can still request a notification be posted on interstate message boards when no vehicle description is available. As reporter Shavonne Walker wrote in Friday’s Post (“Missing man’s wife persuades DOT to change alerts policy”), those notifications will be for situations when people are missing near an interstate or major roadway.

That a person was not last seen in a car should not dictate how far notification of their disappearance should be spread. If there’s a chance that one additional posting might result in a tip that leads to finding a missing person, law enforcement agencies and state officials should support it. And there may be other ways to improve how alerts and notifications provide notice of a missing person.

While McCoy says the recent changes have not helped find her husband, she’s hopeful that a posting on the interstate might help in a future missing-person case.

DOT spokesman Steve Abbott said interstate signs will say where the person was last seen and ask motorists to dial 511 to obtain additional details. During the day, a person will be available. After hours, a recording will do the same.

While, like McCoy, we’re hopeful that the rule change will aid law enforcement and emergency personnel in future cases, we’re also praying that Travis is found and/or safely returned home.

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