Trooper shortage a likely factor in Alabama's road-death spike

Fatalities on Alabama's roadways are becoming increasingly common, and a recent spike in the state's number of highway fatalities has law enforcement officials considering several key factors as likely contributors. Per the Dothan Eagle, there have been 128 more fatalities on Alabama's roads between Jan. 1, 2016 and Oct. 31, 2016, than there were during that same period in 2015. While distracted driving, alcohol and speed are all believed partly to blame for the sharp spike in roadway deaths, a statewide trooper shortage, too, is being eyed as a possible contributor.

Alabama's rising population warrants increased patrols on state roadways, but many state trooper posts are stretched thin, leaving each trooper with considerable ground to cover on a given workday. With many now forced to travel long distances to and from accident scenes, they have little time to patrol areas and otherwise take actions to prevent deaths caused by drunk drivers, distracted drivers and others breaking the law behind the wheel. They also do not have much time to patrol for motorists who are not wearing seat belts or enforce the state's seat belt law, which many troopers cite as another reason for the rise in roadway deaths.

Just how severe has the shortage become? Per WTVM, there are currently 259 state troopers employed in the state, down from 366 in 2010. In addition to placing a strain on law enforcement's ability to enforce traffic laws, the shortage is causing longer response times. In some cases, it can take as long as two hours for troopers to respond to a motorist's call or to a report of an accident.

As far as the cause of the trooper shortage, state budget cuts are receiving most of the blame. The increasingly difficult work schedule many troopers are facing may also be a contributing factor.

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