There are more cars and more accidents on California highways than ever before. Yet, incredibly, Highway Patrol officers spend less time on patrol, – as measured by miles driven - than they did 10 years ago. While speeding and reckless driving are up, officers are issuing fewer tickets.
According to a survey by the Legislative Analysts Office, expensively trained and well paid CHP officers spend so much time investigating crashes and writing reports, they have too little time left to enforce traffic laws.
It’s nuts but CHP officers still interview witnesses and fill out insurance forms at non-injury, fender bender type accidents, tasks local police gave up long ago. They spend up to an hour per shift counting the number of crashes they responded to, stops and arrests made even though all that data is recorded on a dispatchers log. That kind of wasteful paper chase should be ditched.
Other tasks like directing traffic at accident scenes and helping stranded motorists could be performed by lower paid civilians. That would free up CHP officers to patrol the highways, arrest criminals and respond to accidents involving serious injuries, loss of lives or substance abuse, the kinds of activities that keep the highways and the public safe.
Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages