Progressive budget cuts over the past three years have reduced the number of South Carolina state troopers by 20 percent. Now interim Highway Patrol Director Lt. Col. Mike Oliver says it’s time to reverse some of the cuts in the name of public safety. He is requesting an additional 40 troopers to increase DUI arrests and improve collision response.
“[Current reduced trooper levels] may mean a longer wait time for us to respond to a collision. We certainly respond as quick as we can to clear the roadway and investigate their collisions, but more troopers certainly gives us the ability to do that quicker,” Oliver said in a report on WSPA-TV in Spartanburg.
Director Leroy Smith of the Department of Public Safety said he believes increased troop levels would also prevent trooper fatigue and help retention rates.
South Carolina currently has 804 troopers, a sharp decrease from the ideal level of 1,000. In 2008, there were 983 troopers. Adding 40 troopers would cost $4.5 million, and about half the cost would be for one-time equipment expenses such as new vehicles.
Opponents of the increased cost point out that the number of highway deaths has decreased significantly between 2008 and 2010 — from 921 to 774. That reduction is despite fewer troopers patrolling the roads. Traffic fatalities have fallen nationally, and experts believe this may be partially due to decreased travel because of the bad economy.
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