Johnston County Commissioners said Monday they will write to Governor Roy Cooper asking him to assign more state troopers to Johnston County. Commissioner Tony Braswell spearheaded the efforts after bringing up the topic during the April 5th board meeting.
“Johnston County has got two interstates coming through – 40 and 95 – and a proposed interstate which is now Highway 70. According to statistics that I have read, traffic fatalities and accidents are up 18 percent in 2020 despite the fact there was a pandemic and more people stayed at home to work. Driving habits have changed drastically. I wish the state would give us some help,” Commissioner Braswell said. “The Sheriff has more than he can do. It’s not his job to monitor I-95, but he does have a SAFE Team that occasionally works out there. We need to write a letter to the Governor to increase the budget and send more law enforcement officers to deal with speeding and reckless drivers.”
“I drive I-95 about seven miles a day. The average speed is over 80 miles per hour. The speed limit of 65 miles per hour doesn’t apply. I believe if no action is taken, the biggest threat to public safety is our roads and driving habits. Excessive speed and reckless drivers is what I’m talking about.”
“I don’t know what to do, but I suggest the Chairman write a letter to the Governor saying we need some help in Johnston County. Your Dad (Chairman Stewart) use to talk about the country store and what people were talking about. Now they’re talking about how bad the roads are,” Braswell stated.
Commissioner Ted Godwin added, “A letter may not help, but if we don’t it certain won’t help.”
“I think the SHP Troop C is working hard but there needs to be more of them out there. It’s all over. It’s not just Johnston County,” Braswell replied.
Highway Patrol First Sgt. R.B. “Brian” Maynard at the Smithfield District Office is in charge of the state troopers assigned to Johnston County. Sgt. Maynard said 27 troopers are allotted to Johnston County but there are currently five vacancies leaving just 22 troopers to cover 1,825 miles of roadway in Johnston County.
There has not been an increase in the number of allotted troopers to Johnston County in several years even though the number of calls troopers respond to has increased.
In 2018, troopers in Johnston County arrested 510 impaired drivers, cited 921 reckless drivers and issued 10,791 speeding tickets, including 1,015 tickets for speeds 25mph or more above the posted speed limit.
In 2019, troopers arrested 670 impaired driving suspects, cited 1031 reckless drivers and issued 11,418 speeding tickets, including 1,171 for speeds 25mph or more above the posted speed limit.
In 2020, troopers arrested 526 DWI suspects, cited 1282 reckless drivers and issued 7,232 speeding tickets, including 1,295 for speeds 25mph or more above the posted speed limit.
In 2018, troopers investigated 3,309 traffic collision in Johnston County. In 2019, 4102 wrecks were investigated and 3862 in 2020.
Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said Wednesday, “I agree totally with Commissioner Braswell and his comments for highway safety in Johnston County. I cannot remember when the Highway Patrol in Johnston County was fully staffed and that is concerning with the size of our county, the growth that we’ve seen over the years, but more specifically the deaths on our roadways. Our SAFE Team primarily focuses on traffic safety, however they have been reassigned to assist with COVID vaccination clinics across our county.”
Johnston County Report reached out to Gov. Cooper for a comment about the request for more state troopers in Johnston County. Press Secretary Dory MacMillian issued a statement saying, “Rebuilding and fortifying North Carolina’s infrastructure is a top priority for the Governor. Governor Cooper’s budget makes investments to help the State Highway Patrol reduce collisions and make highways safer, including $2 million to support increased enrollment in the State Highway Patrol’s cadet training program and more than $11 million to modernize the communication system in State Highway Patrol vehicles. Governor Cooper’s recommended budget also includes $1.1 billion to make important investments to strengthen our infrastructure, and the state has strong budget availability with almost $5 billion in unreserved money in the General Fund.”