High-speed pursuits expose police officers and agencies to serious risk and liability, and the debate rages on whether pursuits are a necessary evil. Recent data is scarce on why police initiate pursuits, but the available research suggests that most pursuits are sparked by non-violent traffic offenses.
In a 1997 research brief for the National Institute of Justice, law enforcement researcher Geoffrey P. Alpert crunches numbers from three cities to show that police commence an average of 40 percent of pursuits due to traffic violations like DUI or reckless driving, and another 40 percent are triggered by felonies such as armed robbery, assault, burglary or a stolen vehicle.
But a suspect has to run in order for a pursuit to begin. When researchers asked suspects why they fled:
- 32 percent said they were driving a stolen car.
- 27 percent had a suspended driver’s license.
- 27 percent wanted to avoid arrest.
- 21 percent were driving under the influence.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, a motor vehicle was stolen in the United States every 45 seconds in 2015 – a total of more than 700,000. Autoblog.com reports that the average rate for car theft recovery is 46 percent, but the state-by-state rates of recoveries vary greatly.
Offenses that commonly lead to license suspension include DUI/DWI, vehicular manslaughter or homicide and leaving the scene of an accident. According to a 2009 NHTSA report, about 30 percent of drivers suspended for driving reasons commit a moving violation while under suspension, compared to 15 percent of drivers suspended for non-driving reasons. The most common non-driving reasons for license suspension include but are not limited to:
- failure to comply with a child support order (92 percent)
- failure to maintain proper insurance (88 percent)
- alcohol and drug-related offenses by minors, other than DUI (75 percent).
“Unlicensed to Kill,” a report sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, found that unlicensed/suspended/revoked drivers are much more likely to be intoxicated.
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Roughly one in four drivers arrested or convicted of DWI/DUI is a repeat offender. More than 1.1 million drivers were arrested in 2014 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics – just 1 percent of the 121 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving by American adults each year.
Nearly 30 people in the United States die every day – almost one each hour – in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver.