Police Vehicle Chases Killed One a Day Over 20 Years

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Between 1996 and 2015, police vehicle pursuits resulted in more than 6,000 fatal crashes, says the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the U.S. Bureau of Statistics (BJS) reported today. These crashes resulted in more than 7,000 deaths, an average of 355 per year (about one per day). Fatalities peaked in 2006 and 2007, with more than 400 deaths each year. (USA Today, also drawing from federal highway data over a much longer period, has reported that at least 11,506 people, including 6,300 fleeing suspects, were killed in police chases from 1979 through 2013. The newspaper said those figures likely understate the actual death toll because federal officials use police reports to determine if a crash was chase-related, and some reports do not disclose that a chase occurred.)

BJS said that state and local law enforcement agencies conducted an estimated 68,000 vehicle pursuits in 2012. All local police departments serving 250,000 or more residents and nearly all (95 percent) of those serving 50,000 to 249,999 residents conducted vehicle pursuits that year.  As of January 2013, all state police and highway patrol agencies and all local police departments serving 25,000 or more residents had a written vehicle pursuit policy, BJS said. An estimated 2 percent of local police departments and 1 percent of sheriffs’ offices prohibited vehicle pursuits. No state police or highway patrol agencies prohibited pursuits. Most local police departments (71 percent), sheriffs’ offices (63 percent) and state law enforcement agencies (53 percent) restricted pursuits based on specific criteria, such as speed, type of offense and surrounding conditions. The data were based on a 2013 survey by BJS.


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