MHP: More troopers, seat belt law lower traffic fatalities

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 9, 2007

An increased presence by Mississippi Highway Safety Patroltroopers and a new seat belt law combined to decrease trafficfatalities on state roads by 4.4 percent in 2006, according to MHSPstatistics released Thursday.

Sgt. Rusty Boyd, public relations officer for Troop M of theMHSP, said there were 931 traffic deaths in 2005 and 890 in 2006throughout the state.

The number of fatal accidents also decreased slightly, he said.The MHSP investigated 370 fatal collisions in 2005 and 361 in 2006for a reduction of 5.1 percent.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

An average of 17 people die each week in automobile crashes onMississippi roads and highways, Boyd said.

An increased presence and laws can influence the statistics, butBoyd admitted chance was a very real factor.

“A lot of it has to do with luck,” he said. “A few years ago,Troop M had only 12 fatalities in one year. That was unheard of,and it hasn’t been seen since.”

Weather, driver skills and vehicle condition are all variablesthat cannot be controlled, Boyd said.

An influential variable that can be controlled, but whoseeffects cannot be predicted, is the number of troopers patrollingthe roads, he said.

The highway patrol’s enforcement division was augmented by 93new recruits in 2006 from two patrol schools completed during theyear.

“The more they see us on the roads, the more it affects peopleand how they drive,” Boyd said.

The increased presence becomes more pronounced on holidayweekends, when federal and state grants help fund program to allowoff-duty troopers to put in extra hours in patrolling.

Holiday weekends showed a marked improvement. A reduction of 32percent was found in fatal collisions with only 17 in 2006. Therewere 25 fatal collisions in 2005. Twenty lives were lost on thehighways during the holidays in 2006, but it was a drop of 35.5percent from 2005, when 31 lives were lost during the sameperiods.

“I think it really has made a difference in the severity ofinjuries and wrecks because people are more mindful of how they’redriving when they see law enforcement,” Boyd said.

An increased presence may be difficult to maintain, however.Boyd said over the next two years as many as 200 troopers will beeligible to retire and staffing levels have become a concern.

Two classes of troopers graduated in 2006, but those graduatesdid not even bring the MHSP up to current staffing goals. Troop M,which includes nine Southwest Mississippi counties, received 10 ofthe troopers graduating in the December class.

The MHSP is presently taking applications to start a new trooperschool later this year.

For more information about the school, contact Boyd at theBrookhaven office or call the recruitment office at (601)933-2135.