TALLAHASSEE, FL – A major staffing shortage at the Florida Highway Patrol may be welcome news to speeders on the road, but the department says it’s struggling to respond to the growing number of accidents in the state.
The department is hoping a pay raise for troopers in the state budget will help.
FHP has lost 993 troopers to retirement or resignation since 2010. That’s more than half of its current workforce.
We spoke with a Texas driver traveling to Disney World who says she prefers to speed.
“But I’m cautious because we’re not from Florida, so I don’t want to get a ticket from a place I’m not from,” she said.
But a speeding ticket is something she may not have to worry about until there are more troopers on the road.
The drastic reduction in employees has resulted in an 18 percent drop in the number of traffic tickets being written. The drop doesn’t bother some motorists.
“Speed traps? I really don’t like them,” said one Florida driver.
The drop in tickets and the high turnover rate is being blamed on poor pay.
“You have trouble recruiting people to the Highway Patrol with the low salary and then you have trouble retaining folks within the Highway Patrol because the salary stays low,” says Matt Puckett with the Florida Police Benevolent Association.
As staffing takes a hit, the number of crashes in the state continues to rise. Car crashes increased 70 percent between 2011 and 2016. Fewer troopers on the road means longer response times.
“It really is a public safety concern when you have this low staffing,” said Puckett.
The legislature raised troopers’ starting salary by $2,200 starting in July. The budget also would increase all troopers pay by five percent, which the FHP hopes will bring in more recruits.
“We just had 63 new recruits graduate the Florida Highway Patrol Academy. We currently have 25 new recruits in the academy at this time,” said FHP Captain Jefferrey Bissainthe.
Even with the pay raise in the budget, troopers salaries will still fall behind what most other southern states offer.
As of May 4th, there were 201 vacancies at the Florida Highway Patrol.