Bill pushes hiring, retention bonuses for state troopers, aims to improve traffic safety

So far in 2023, Washington State Patrol said it responded to nearly 1,800 crashes on interstates and highways. Not helping matters, WSP officials said less people were applying for jobs to become troopers.

A proposal to state lawmakers could help get more state police officers on the roads, which could help efforts in reducing dangerous driving behaviors.

"People seem to be driving much faster than they used to several years ago. Getting a little bit more agitated. And those trends are concerning to us, especially we’ve seen a lot of shootings on I-5 this year," said Robert Reyer, WSP District 1 public information officer for Pierce and Thurston counties.

2023 is off to a concerning start. As of January 26, WSP’s Road Report showed there were:

  • 716 impaired driver arrests
  • 1,158 seatbelt violations
  • 1,694 distracted drivers
  • 7,010 aggressive drivers
  • 1,775 collisions investigated
  • 9 fatality collisions

Reyer said cellphones, stereo systems and other car features contributed to the increase in distracted driving numbers.

"Looking up the results of a sports game while they’re driving or texting somebody or even just taking a phone call or dialing. Those are all things that cause collisions every single day," said Reyer.

Every day, WSP responds to the calls and emergencies with a smaller staff. Chief John Batiste said state patrol was down 249 troopers.

"With the few troopers that are out there, I guarantee you they’re working very hard. They’re tired. And they’re waiting for back up," said Chief Batiste.

Back up could soon come from the state legislation. House Bill 1380 proposes to fund recruitment, retention and support for law enforcement officers. Specifically for WSP, the money would help in establishing a state recruitment program, offer a $5,000 new-hire bonus for state patrol officers, as well as $5,000 retention bonus for troopers who stay on the force for at least one year.

Chief Batiste said more troopers on the roads is how traffic safety could improve statewide.

READ MORE: Washington communities get $9M to reverse trend of traffic fatalities

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"We also need help from the public. We can’t arrest our way out of any situation, nor is that our desire. We need people who are actually driving in a reckless disregard for themselves and others to get it together and drive safely. You’re making the roadways unsafe for all of us," said Chief Batiste.

House Bill 1380 was introduced to the legislative session on Monday.