FORSYTH, GA (WTOC) - Georgia's governor says a pay raise for state law enforcement officers continues to make our roadways safer.
Right now, more than 50 cadets are in training to become Georgia State Troopers. Just a year ago, the state had one of their smallest ever with less than 10.
When that class of less than 10 finished, state leaders had an important decision to make on how to attract people to join the force. Georgia ranked dead last nationwide in pay before that six percent raise last January.
For some, the job is too dangerous. For others, it's too difficult or the pay is too low.
"These are dangerous jobs. They put their lives on the line every day when they leave home. They need to be adequately awarded by the citizens of our state," said Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.
Finally, Governor Deal said that's happening in Georgia. Last year's pay raise brings the state into the top half of the country. The raise is for most any state employee that wears a vest and a badge. The Department of Public Safety said because of that, more people are applying. The graduation rate for future state troopers is up almost 30 percent. They're also not losing people to other agencies.
"That means we're getting better people applying for the job. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the salary they're going to be paid," said Deal.
The state patrol's goal is to prevent ones like the wreck Cesar Perez was in. A suspected drunk driver going the wrong direction hit Perez on I-16 earlier this year. His family said his recovery is just beginning.
"Someone like that could get into an accident, potentially kill someone and still come out walking better than the victims. That is really a hard pill to swallow," said Cesar's sister, Alicia Perez.
The training captain for the Georgia State Patrol said their training will continue to be as rigorous as possible to get the best troopers on the roads. That's the governor's message.
"We want qualified people. We want well-trained people to be able to keep our roadways safe," Deal said.
Families like the Perez family are thankful for that. However, Cesar's sister had this message for drivers.
"The state troopers can only do so much. It really falls on your shoulders to do your part as a citizen, as someone that's responsible," said Perez.
Perez continues to re-learn a lot of skills many people may take for granted. His sister said a there are a few more surgeries in his future, but they're thankful it isn't worse than it is. You can follow along here.