Car Chases Look Cool on TV — But Are Dangerous
A high-profile incident in the nation’s capitol on October 3, 2013, ended with one woman dead, a toddler in custody and two injured police officers. All major media outlets were on the scene within minutes live-streaming the events as a 34-year-old female driver ran a police barricade at the White House, striking a security officer before leading police on a chase to Capitol Hill. Police fired on the car, killing the driver.
Police officers, in the pursuit of their duty to protect the society often take safety risks as a necessary part of the job. An officer must often make a split-second decision when pursuing a suspect about whether or not the pursuit warrants a car chase.
Police cars are required to follow the same traffic rules as the general public, including:
- Stopping at stop signs
- Stopping at stop lights
- Obeying the speed limit
- Using directional signals
- Passing in appropriate zone
While there are circumstances that warrant the suspension of these rules, when police must chase a suspect in a way that results in the violation of traffic laws, officers endanger their lives and those of the public. Statistics from the National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reflect the dangers of high-speed car chases: A 1998 report shows 314 people killed in car chases, two of them police officers, 198 fleeing suspects and 114 innocent bystanders.
Too many police traffic deaths
Overall there are far too many traffic-related deaths of police officers, many of which are preventable. Between 2000 and 2009, more than 700 police officers were killed in the line of duty in traffic incidents or while just outside of their vehicles.
Highway safety advocates believe many police deaths can be prevented through stronger enforcement of general traffic safety measures, such as:
- Seat belt use — Buckling seat belts saves lives in every type of car accident.
- Distracted driving — Ban the use of scanners and handheld radio devices by the officer behind the wheel.
- Move-over laws — Increase awareness of the driver’s obligation to give a lane over to police or other emergency vehicles on the side of the road.
- Driver training — Offer additional hours of training in advanced driving techniques.
Police officers injured in traffic accidents have a right to pursue monetary compensation for medical costs and lost wages. To learn more contact an Atlanta accident attorney.