A 311 nonemergency line was recently established on Martha's Vineyard to keep down the number of bogus 911 calls taking time away from answering truly urgent calls.

Sixty percent of the 6,116 calls to Martha's Vineyard's 911 line in 2002 were not emergencies.

"We get a lot of calls from visitors looking for directions, town information, places to eat, all kinds of things," Sgt. Donald Rose, a spokesman for the Duke's County Sheriff's Office, tells the Associated Press. "Our concern is that the 911 system could be flooded. That has not occurred, but this system will certainly keep that from happening," says Rose.

Police departments in New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, Baltimore, San Jose, Calif., Houston, Chicago, and Austin, Texas, already use the 311 system to help overburdened emergency operators.