Why are North Carolina cities hiring civilian traffic investigators?


North Carolina has recently taken a unique step in the handling of traffic accident investigations and enforcement. To streamline the investigation process, the governor signed a House bill 140 to allow cities to hire civilian traffic investigators.

The next time you are in a car accident and call 911 to file a report. You may be visited by a Civilian Traffic investigator instead of an armed police officer.

This decision is an important step in increasing traffic safety and streamlining law enforcement.

By allowing cities to hire civilian traffic investigators, local law enforcement can focus their efforts on more pressing matters, such as responding to calls for emergency assistance and engaging in proactive crime prevention activities.

In addition, the presence of civilians during the investigation process can help ensure that drivers are treated fairly as well.

Current Challenges in Traffic Investigations

The current challenges in traffic investigations are centered around the resource-intensive nature of the process. Police officers must often spend hours at the scene of an accident, interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence for their reports.

Police officers can also be summoned away from their duties as well when being summoned to the courthouse as well.

Traditional law enforcement agencies are limited in their ability to respond efficiently and effectively to the increasing number of traffic-related incidents, due to a variety of factors such as a lack of resources or a high call volume.

The hiring of civilian traffic investigators helps alleviate some of this burden by providing an additional set of eyes on the scene that can quickly assess the situation and provide accurate information to the police if needed.

Benefits of Civilian Traffic Investigators

Civilian traffic investigators offer many advantages over traditional law enforcement. They are better equipped for non-emergency situations and can often be more efficient in conducting investigations, as they have no authority to arrest or detain individuals.

Furthermore, civilian traffic investigators are typically less intimidating than police officers, which can help ensure that drivers are treated fairly during the investigation process. This provides:

  • A. Enhanced community engagement and trust
    • 1. Establishing a closer connection between investigators and local communities
    • 2. Fostering better communication and collaboration
  • B. Specialized skills and expertise
    • 1. Utilizing individuals with specific training in traffic investigations
    • 2. Leveraging their knowledge of accident reconstruction, data analysis, and traffic safety
  • C. Lightening the workload for law enforcement officers
    • 1. Allowing law enforcement to focus on other critical tasks
    • 2. Improving response times and overall efficiency

Legislative Action in North Carolina

North Carolina cities are now able to hire and set their own “minimum standards for employment” for civilian traffic investigators. All investigators must undergo a training program from the North Carolina Justice Academy.

The investigators will be issued a new uniform but must be substantially different than an armed police officer.

House bill 140 says that the investigators can only investigate property damage and no injuries.

Also, the bill states that “Investigators shall have the same authority as a law enforcement officer to tow or remove a vehicle that is obstructing a public street or highway,”.

Potential Impact on Traffic Safety

The implementation of civilian traffic investigators has the potential to significantly improve accident investigations and reconstructions. Not only can they provide more accurate and comprehensive reports.

The use of civilian traffic investigators allows us to better identify trends and patterns in traffic incidents that can inform policy and decision-making.

Through the information collected by these investigators, we can gain a better understanding of traffic safety issues such as high-risk areas or common accident causes. As a result, cities can use this data to develop more effective safety initiatives and adjust their enforcement strategies accordingly.

Addressing Concerns and Criticisms

There are some concerns about the hiring of civilian traffic investigators, such as potential conflicts of interest or a lack of experience. To address these legitimate concerns, cities must ensure that they hire individuals with the necessary qualifications and experience for the job.

Furthermore, it is important to establish clear guidelines for investigator conduct and implement appropriate oversight measures to ensure accountability.

In addition to addressing legitimate concerns and criticisms, it is also important to provide counterarguments and address any misconceptions about the role of civilian traffic investigators. For example, many people may assume that civilians will be less capable than police officers in their investigations.

However, as previously mentioned, civilian traffic investigators can leverage their specialized knowledge and expertise to provide more accurate reports all without sending an armed officer to a car accident with no injuries.

To ensure the highest level of accountability, training, and professionalism among civilian traffic investigators, cities should establish clear guidelines for investigator conduct.

This can include requiring background checks for all applicants, providing mandatory continuing education courses to refresh their knowledge and skills, and instilling a code of ethics that must be adhered to at all times.

Lessons for Other Jurisdictions

The implementation of civilian traffic investigators in North Carolina provides an example of how other jurisdictions can improve their traffic investigations.

This model can help reduce the burden on traditional law enforcement by freeing up resources for more pressing matters and providing better community engagement and trust. It also ensures that drivers are treated fairly, as civilians are less intimidating than police officers.

The Effects on Auto Insurance

First and foremost I see this as a great step forward towards making it a habit to call law enforcement in an accident. The unfortunate reality is that many will say one thing in the moment, and then an entirely different story when reporting to the insurance company.

Additionally, I think this will be great for auto insurance companies because the reports will be much more accurate and therefore allow them to process claims in a more organized fashion.


This decision offers many advantages over traditional law enforcement, such as enhanced community engagement, specialized skills and expertise, and a lightening of the workload for law enforcement officers.

These benefits can help reduce the burden on traditional law enforcement while improving response times to other emergencies.

To ensure that this initiative is successful, it is important to continue evaluating its effectiveness and researching the impact on traffic safety.

This can help identify any areas of improvement or opportunities for further development. Additionally, cities should use this data to inform their decision-making process and develop more effective safety initiatives and enforcement strategies.

Ultimately, by continuing to monitor the success of civilian traffic investigators, cities can ensure that the community is given the highest standard of care and service.

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