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Police chases may be fatal

Movies and television have long portrayed high speed police chases as exciting. News stations have often quadrupled ratings by airing live pursuits while YouTube has thousands of videos of these chases.

However, these pursuits have caused car accidents and fatalities. More alarming, however, the majority of pursuits involve offenders of nonviolent crimes that do not warrant exposing the public to danger.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, there have been 10,642 deaths in these chases since 1982. This translates into 332 deaths per year. FBI figures are even higher.

By comparison, the police have committed approximately 400 justifiable homicides each year.

Researchers found in 2004 that innocent bystanders comprised almost one third of fatalities in high-speed police chases. These are mostly other drivers who are struck by the police car or the vehicle which is being pursued. Approximately 30 pedestrians and cyclists are killed annually.

Police officers who began the chase make up less than one percent of deaths. Alcohol was involved in approximately 62 percent of all of these deadly accidents. Shockingly, 20 of the 81 police officers killed were legally intoxicated.

The National Institute of Justice also reported that 91 percent of all reported police chases are started over non-violent crimes. Half of these involve minor traffic violations such as rolling through a stop sign or driving with a broken taillight.

A typical pursuit lasts between 1 to 5 minutes. The overwhelming majority of accidents occur during the first two minutes of the chase. Approximately 40 percent of pursuits end with a collision. Eighty percent of these accidents involve another vehicle. Of these multi-vehicle accidents, 20 percent result in a traumatic injury and one percent involve a fatality.

More restrictive pursuit policies have decreased injuries in places around the country. However, many jurisdictions still provide great latitude to police officers to begin a chase.

GPS technology that allows a police vehicle to track a suspect’s car can decrease accidents and can track a suspect’s car for up to 10 hours. It costs $5,000 per unit and has not yet been widely adopted.

Until restrictive policies and technology are widely adopted, motorists and passengers in New York face a danger of being in a car accident involving a police pursuit. Legal assistance can help assure that victims of these accidents receive prompt and just compensation for personal injury and wrongful death.

Source: Priceonomics, “The case for banning high-speed police chases,” By Zachary Crockett, July 22, 2015