CBS 58 Investigates: State Trooper crashes
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – Wisconsin state troopers are trained to help keep motorists safe on the road. But a CBS 58 Investigation found dozens of state patrol crashes didn’t involve a trooper responding to an emergency. Over the 18 month period CBS 58 reviewed, Jan. 2018 to July 2019, troopers chalked up an estimated $460,725 in damage.
State patrol fleet crash reports detail all types of crashes involving state squad cars. Troopers write up damage caused using PIT maneuvers to stop fleeing suspects, deer collisions, and collisions caused by other motorists.
In the period CBS 58 Investigates reviewed, 145 state patrol cars were damaged. The state patrol said 25 percent of those crashes were for emergency calls, the rest were not.
The reports show troopers rear ending other drivers, backing into construction equipment, or in one case, clipping the garage at their home.
“They need to make sure that they’re operating their vehicle safely,” said Wisconsin State Patrol Sgt. Nic Betts.
Betts is the Patrol’s lead emergency vehicle operations trainer. He said all troopers receive 40 hours of driving training, including normal, emergency, and pursuit driving. Troopers also receive four hours of refresher training every two years.
He said he was not surprised by the few crashes responding to emergencies.
“The vast majority of our miles and the number of hours per day are in the normal patrol operations mode,” said Betts.
The State Patrol said troopers logged 9.3 million miles in 2018. Split among 400 troopers, that’s 23,250 miles each. For comparison, Federal Highway Administration data show the average driver logs around 13,000 miles each year.
Betts said crashes are investigated and troopers may be assigned remedial training or discipline if necessary. He said the State Patrol uses videos of trooper crashes from Wisconsin and around the country to help keep its troopers guards up.
“Keep your head on a swivel, respect traffic, don’t ever let your guard down,” said Betts.
Training can only prevent so much. Deer collisions during the time period CBS 58 reviewed caused $132,000 in damage.