By: Fred Rivara and Christopher Mack, injuryprevention.bmj.com
Objective: To determine the number and characteristics of motor vehicle crash deaths related to police pursuits in the United States.
Methods: Analysis of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the Crashworthiness Data System of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the years 1994–2002.
Results: There were 2654 fatal crashes involving 3965 vehicles and 3146 fatalities during the nine year study period. Of these, 1088 were to people not in the fleeing vehicle. These crashes often occurred at high speed, in the night, on local roads. Most of the pursued drivers had prior motor vehicle related convictions.
Conclusions: Many deaths related to police pursuits are to innocent victims. Given that most of the pursued drivers had prior convictions, alternative means of detaining them should be explored.
Police pursuit policies must be informed by this type of research, and public debate about these policies be conducted. Police pursuits are hotly debated among the law enforcement and criminal justice community.2 Policies vary in the type of offense for which a pursuit is allowed, the speed at which they can be conducted, responsibility for initiating and terminating a pursuit, and the use of alternatives.5 Changes in policies can have a substantial effect. For example, when Dade County, Florida restricted pursuits to only those for violent felons, the number of police pursuits decreased by 82% in the next year.3 In contrast, when Omaha adopted a more permissive policy for pursuit, the number of pursuits increased by 600%.3 Prior research indicates a relative lack of training of officers in pursuits and pursuit driving.3 Other methods of stopping criminals have not been widely adopted such as use of roadblocks, barrier strips which have spikes designed to puncture the tires and stop the pursued vehicle.5 Pursuit incidents are often not routinely reviewed by the agency, and 40% of agencies reported providing no training in pursuit tactics.5 Given that one third of the deaths are to innocent civilians, the cost and benefits of police pursuits should be more openly discussed and other options for stopping criminals more fully explored.
Read more at: https://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/10/2/93