The main responsibility of a highway patrol officer is to guard the streets, highways and freeways in his jurisdiction. He is commonly required to ensure that motorists adhere to traffic laws and regulations and bound to issue citations to those who do not. While his main focus of enforcement is normally limited to roads and thoroughfares, he may be asked in some circumstances to help local police or other law enforcement professionals in criminal investigations or apprehension efforts.
In the course of his work, a highway patrol officer is frequently required to seize suspected and confirmed criminals traveling by motorized vehicle on the streets and roads under his patrol. For safety reasons, highway patrol officers normally travel in pairs and are strongly cautioned not to attempt the arrest of individuals deemed dangerous by law enforcement personnel. Officers who pursue and pull over suspected criminals are typically instructed to delay arrests until backup units can assist in the detention.
Besides enforcing traffic and safely laws on public highways and interstates, a highway patrol officer regularly gives driving directions and assists distressed motorists. If a driver experiences mechanical problems with his vehicle, a highway patrol officer may call for assistance or help the motorist to a safe location to wait for a tow truck or auto mechanic to arrive. Highway patrol officers often provide first aid at accident scenes and are regularly credited with saving the lives of motorists or delivering babies for mothers who fail to make it to a medical facility to give birth.
Off road duties of a highway patrol officer commonly include inspecting commercial vehicle weigh stations for compliance, giving lectures on highway safety at schools and community events and conducting recruitment efforts at local schools and colleges. Officers are also regularly required to document their activities through daily reports and incident logs. If a motorist fights a moving violation ticket or an investigation proceeds to trial, a highway patrol officer may be compelled to testify in court.
To succeed as a highway patrol officer requires the ability to make sound judgments under pressure on a regular basis. Maintaining composure in the face of crime and crisis is also an important attribute. Integrity and compassion are desirable traits for a person who chooses this career.
A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary to be considered as a candidate for highway patrol training school. The training is provided by local or regional agencies and normally lasts several months. An associate's or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or law enforcement is considered excellent auxiliary training for a highway patrol officer.