Highway Hero says his brave deed is ‘what we do on the road’

May 2019

Greg Grisolano


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Even though a friend had encouraged him to write a short speech just in case he ended up winning, Paul Mathias says hearing his name called as the 36th Goodyear Highway Hero award winner still caught him off guard.

“I was not expecting it,” he said. “I thought Darrell (Atkins) was going to win it.”

Mathias was so sure one of his fellow drivers was going to win, he didn’t even bring his phone with him when all three finalists went to the dais at the Crown Plaza Airport Hotel on March 28 for the announcement. The speech was saved on his phone, so Mathias improvised, paying tribute to his parents, his time in the military, and to his fellow honorees.

“I dedicate this to my parents, for the way they raised me, and to the military, for making me strong,” he said before pointing toward his son Gered, who was in the audience. “This shows my son what we do out on the road.”

What Mathias did to be named a Highway Hero was render first aid and CPR to two children who were seriously injured in a car crash in his hometown of Phoenix. He had just stopped his truck at a red light when he saw a vehicle slam into an SUV that contained a mother and her two children. He instructed the mother to perform CPR on her son and comforted the daughter as she passed away from her injuries. Mathias then returned to the boy and proceeded to administer CPR to him until emergency crews arrived and took over. The boy survived.

His son, Gered, said he was proud of his father.

“He lives by some pretty strong morals and values,” he said. “To see him appreciated for that is really nice.”

Mathias also acknowledged his fellow finalists, in his speech, saying, “It’s gentlemen like this that make me proud to be a truck driver.”

“Hopefully this is a wake-up call to a lot of people, to stop and help,” he said. “There is good in this world, and that’s what we’re here for. To help each other out.”

In addition to Mathias, Atkins from Alvaredo, Texas, and Don Frederick from Kimbolton, Ohio, were also finalists. The award is presented annually during the Mid-America Trucking Show.

Atkins was driving on an Arizona interstate when he witnessed a vehicle containing an elderly couple get struck from behind, flip over and come to a stop on a grassy median. Atkins worked with a bystander to extract the driver, who was hanging upside down by her seatbelt. Even as gasoline began to leak, Atkins continued to remove her husband and the couple’s three dogs from the car and remained with them until emergency crews arrived.

Frederick was driving along a state highway in Ohio when he witnessed a coal truck flip onto its side while making a turn. He removed the damaged truck’s back window, reached into the vehicle and applied direct pressure to the wounded driver, who was bleeding heavily and trapped by the truck’s steering wheel. As the truck began to emit smoke, Frederick freed the driver’s legs and worked with a bystander to help the driver exit the truck. He continued to render first aid until the emergency crews arrived.

Established in 1983, the Goodyear Highway Hero Award recognizes truck drivers who put themselves in harm’s way to help others on the road. The winner is selected by an independent panel of trucking trade media. Winners receive a cash reward, a trophy and a commemorative ring. LL

Greg Grisolano

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.