The introduction of more West Virginia State Police officers to the State’s roads and highways has resulted in a drop in traffic deaths. In fact, according to Sgt. Chris Zerkle, Director of Traffic Records for the State Police, deaths on the highways of West Virginia in 2013 are set to be the lowest they’ve been since 2010.
Grant Money for Increased Patrols
More State troopers on WV’s highways and roads are the result of grant money that is used to pay overtime. The State Police received about $700,000 in grant money in 2013 for these extra patrols, which included about $115,000 in extra funding for programs to stop texting and driving and not wearing seatbelts. The funds are split among 8 troops around the state, each of which is often responsible for numerous counties. In all, there are about 400 State troopers throughout the State of WV.
The money has been divided among a number of local State Police detachments for various highway safety offensives. Ideally, the safety offensives are designed to coincide with times of high traffic, such as during the holidays, as more people on the roads increases the chances for traffic accidents. The latest blitz in November resulted in more than 1,200 speeding tickets written, nearly 500 warnings issues, and 44 arrests.
Drivers on Alert
Zerkle attributes the reduction in accident and death rates to the mere presence of the troopers, as he says drivers automatically slow down when they see a trooper. In 2010, 294 people died in traffic-related accidents in West Virginia; in 2011 that number increased to 315, and it increased again to 324 in 2012. This year, the number has dropped dramatically to 292, with Zerkle hopeful that there will not be any more.