Posted on behalf of Stephens, Anderson & Cummings on Mar 18, 2016 in Auto Accidents
On March 10, a suspect accused of credit card fraud at a hotel led Mesquite police on a high-speed chase that ended only when the suspect crashed into a school bus full of elementary school children.
Fortunately, no children were injured, but the incident sparked renewed dialogue about the dangers of police chases.
Police Chase Dangers
High-speed chases kill thousands of innocent people every year. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), at least 11,506 people, including fleeing suspects, died in police chases from 1979 to 2013. That is an average of 329 deaths a year, which is equal to nearly one person per day.
A USA Today analysis of police chase data shows that bystanders and passengers in chased cars make up almost half of all police pursuit deaths.
These numbers, however, likely understate the actual death toll because the NHTSA relies on police reports to determine if an accident was related to a chase and not all reports indicate if a chase occurred.
Furthermore, the actual number of innocent bystanders who are killed by police chases is impossible to pinpoint because the NHTSA’s records do not reveal if victims were in a vehicle that was hit during a chase or if they were in cars fleeing police.
What makes these shocking numbers even worse is that the majority of high-speed chases begin as a result of an attempted traffic stop for a minor infraction.
Dallas High-Speed Chases
In 2005, there were 354 police chases in Dallas – almost one every day – resulting in the deaths of 21 officers and 21 civilians.
Following that deadly year, the Dallas police chief at the time changed the Dallas pursuit law to be one of the most restrictive in the United States, allowing officers to only pursue violent offenders. Officers with the Dallas Police Department at the time believed that vehicles in a high-speed chases were just as dangerous as a loaded gun.
Since the 2006 change, chase numbers in Dallas have decreased significantly, and only one person has been killed in pursuits since the change.
Unfortunately, most police departments still allow officers to make in-the-moment decisions about whether to chase or not based on the perceived dangers to civilians.
If you were injured or lost a loved one as a result of a high-speed chase, contact the auto accident lawyers at Stephens, Anderson & Cummings to discuss your legal options.