Fourth of July is typically a busy day on the roads. AAA is projecting this holiday to be the busiest of the year with more travelers choosing to drive instead of flying. Four In Your Corner is learning there is a trooper shortage in the state which is affecting Southwest Florida.
Florida is the third largest state in the nation and preliminary numbers show FHP worked more than 200,000 crashes in 2016.
As of May 2017, there were 201 vacant FHP sworn officers positions statewide. FHP claims there has been a steady shortage of sworn members the last few years due to attrition and retirements.
AAA is projecting record traffic this holiday. Four In Your Corner asked FHP's Lt. Greg Bueno if troopers in Southwest Florida were prepared to handle the increase of drivers on the road.
"Yes, we are. We've been extremely busy and we anticipate that it's going to be busy after the 4th," Lt. Greg Bueno said.
The latest numbers released in May reveal there are 44 vacancies in Southwest Florida. The current starting salary for an FHP trooper is $33,977. As of July 1, troopers will receive a 5% increase and the starting salary will be $36,223.
"FHP has established high standard to respond to calls for service and strives to arrive on the scene of a crash within 30 minutes or less," Lt. Bueno said. "With the number if people traveling throughout Florida it means troopers may be at a scene of a crash or an active patrol. "
Lt. Bueno says active patrol helps maintain safety on the roadways because motorists tend to drive more safely in the presence of law enforcement.
"This is a great job. Truly a great opportunity to make such a positive impact on so many people's lives," he said.
This holiday you can do your part by keeping your hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, and all distractions away while you're driving.
Governor Rick Scott is expected to be in Southwest Florida in July to discuss the pay increase for state troopers.