They say that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That certainly appears to be true with North Carolina budget problems.
As lawmakers struggle to close the state's budget gap, staffing of the North Carolina Highway Patrol falls. And as the number of troopers falls, the response time to traffic accidents grows.
In a report on the problem, WSOC-TV talked to a driver who recently came upon an accident scene on Interstate 485. No injuries, the driver said, but debris from the crashed vehicles littered the area, creating the real possibility that the first wreck would cause others. And in those subsequent crashes, it was very possible that people would be injured.
So the driver used his vehicle to divert traffic from the scene and he got out to wave drivers around the accident. He also called 911 to alert the Highway Patrol. As he stood out there directing traffic, he hoped drivers would spot him in time to avoid him.
It took 45 minutes for a state trooper to show up. Not because they don't care about accidents, but because there are simply fewer troopers available to get to crashes and crimes.
According to WSOC, Mecklenburg County is slotted to have 28 troopers. In reality, it has 23.
Sometimes, a mere six troopers are on duty, trying to cover the county's interstates.
A Highway Patrol spokesperson told the TV station that the department would love to have more troopers. "Absolutely," he said. "Do we need more? Absolutely."
Will the governor and legislators get more troopers on Mecklenburg roads? That seems like a long shot at this point.
Resource: WSOC TV: "Highway Patrol Short On Troopers In Mecklenburg County": February 16, 2011