The Dangers of High-Speed Police Chases

Source: GIPHY, Channel 4 News' Police Chase in Inglewood

Source: GIPHY, Channel 4 News' Police Chase in Inglewood

Nothing makes for more exciting TV footage than a police chase. Yet in reality, police chases put all drivers on the road at risk of car accident injuries, all because of someone's reckless decisions. Earlier this summer on June 4, 2017, 25-year-old Timothy Remon Gomez stole a vehicle and took it for a joy ride near Grand River Avenue. Gomez was spotted speeding by Michigan State Police (MSP) who ran his license plate in their database to find that the car stolen. When Michigan State Police tried to pull him over, Gomez decided to flee, leading the Michigan State Police on a high-speed chase on I-96.

However, while attempting to turn westbound onto Martin Luther King Boulevard, Gomez crashed the stolen car and instead attempted to flee on foot. Authorities soon found Gomez hiding not too far away in an abandoned house. Gomez was arraigned in the 36th District Court Monday and was charged with driving without a license, resisting and obstructing police, and receiving and concealing a motor vehicle fleeing and eluding third degree, by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. Mr. Gomez was lucky that no one was harmed in this high-speed police chase.

High-Speed Police Chase Statistics

Deaths linked to police pursuits have increased in the last few years. An analysis by USA Today listed that 1 in 3 pursuits result in a high-speed car crash and police chases are responsible for more than 11,000 deaths from 1979 to 2013. It is estimated that 5,000 of those deaths include innocent bystanders and passengers. Typically, reports do not specify whether the victim was killed by the fleeing vehicle or another vehicle that was hit during the chase, but a relatively high number of high-speed car chases are caused by minor traffic violations, misdemeanors, or nonviolent felony charges.

“Overwhelmingly, someone is fleeing because they’ve got a minor warrant, their car isn’t insured, they’ve had too much to drink...the sanctions imposed by courts nationwide for merely stealing a car don’t justify anybody taking any risk.” said Edward Flynn, the police chief of Milwaukee, WI.

Police Technology Improvements

Michigan Police Accident Lawyer

When analyzing previous police chases, officials are often torn between police being better trained on pursuing suspects in motorized vehicles or choosing better technology to help avoid high-speed police chases altogether. According to a 2006 Justice Department study, police officers only receive 40 hours of driving training compared to 72 hours of weapons training, and though many police cruisers have portable computers or electronic dashboards, the main "technology" used in police chases is tire spikes. This method is two decades old, and involves officers knowing where a fleeing car is headed so that they can pull a strip of spikes across the road to bring the vehicle to a stop by popping its tires. It's important to note that this procedure also endangers police personnel standing in the middle of potentially busy roads to try and stop the motor vehicles with the spikes. 

In terms of modern improvements, "devices that would shut off the engines of moving cars by transmitting microwaves are not commercially available a decade after the Justice Department funded their development," reports USA Today. A new device was made back in 2010 that shoots a GPS tag onto the exterior of a vehicle to track when cars stop so police can make an arrest. Still, only 20 of the 18,000 police departments nationwide use the device.

While high speed driving is sometimes necessary for law enforcement agents to do their jobs, speeding in a car is dangerous even when the reason for doing so is to catch a criminal. Although speeding may be unavoidable, hopefully, new technologies and more high-speed chase training will help avoid some speeding car crash injuries.The hope is that the primarily negative consequences of police chases, such as innocent pedestrian car crashes, will spur officials and tech companies alike into improving the software available for high-speed pursuits. Even adopting new policies that emphasize reserving police chases for suspected violent felons could help minimize the risks of injury related to a speeding car accident. 


Fact: Around 76% of high-speed police chases last only about 5 minutes yet are responsible for approximately 7,400 car accident injuries every year. If you or someone you know has been in an auto accident involving a speeding driver, please contact The Michigan Law Firm PLLC at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free consultation.