Road Safety News

Rise in police vehicle pursuit-related deaths ‘deeply worrying’

Tuesday 25th July 2017

New figures from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have highlighted a ‘sharp increase’ in the number of vehicle pursuit-related deaths for the year ending March 2017.

Published yesterday (25 July), the IPCC figures show that there were 32 road traffic fatalities over the 12-month period, an increase of 11 on the previous year. The figure is also the highest recorded in the last eight years.

28 of the deaths were from police pursuit-related incidents, more than double the figure for the year ending March 2016 - and the highest for 11 years.

The IPCC says the rise in pursuit-related deaths is ‘noticeable’, while Brake describes it as ‘deeply worrying’. The road safety charity is also calling on the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) to urgently review pursuit procedures.

The new IPCC figures show that none of the pursuit-related deaths were in response to emergencies. Two-thirds of the people killed were passengers, bystanders or other road users, and all but two incidents involved cars.

Dame Anne Owers, chair of the IPCC, said: “Pursuits are dynamic and fast-moving events, and there are authorised procedures to ensure that they are as safe as possible.

“When we investigate, we examine whether those procedures have been followed, taking account of known risks. In most of the incidents investigated, this was the case.  

“However, given the rise in fatalities, we will be working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to look at the causes and whether any changes to police pursuit safety or training are needed.”

Jason Wakeford, spokesman for Brake, said: "The sharp increase in pursuit-related deaths is deeply worrying and underlines the fact that police chases, often at excessive speed, are incredibly dangerous.

“We are particularly concerned to learn that none of these deaths were in response to emergencies and two-thirds of the people who died were passengers, bystanders or other road users.

“It simply cannot be worth risking innocent lives by engaging in perilous chases when trying to secure an arrest. The National Police Chiefs' Council must urgently review pursuit procedures in light of these very troubling figures."




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The risk is not necessarily because it's a pursuit - it can be any high-speed response - to a collision possibly. There may be more of a red-mist situation in a chase naturally, but any high-speed driving especially in a built-up area will carry a risk. Sirens and blue lights do not create an inpenetrable force field around police cars and the drivers thereof should never assume that the path ahead will, as a result, always be clear of slower moving road users.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

Last year I was invited to join the Met Police Pursuits Working Party - to give a bit of impartial advice/opinion on their policies and procedures and to educate me on what goes on. It is clear they are dealing with some very difficult cases (incredibly irresponsible drivers/ riders), under-resourced and working under a great deal of scrutiny. I have been surprised at how many pursuits are abandoned on safety grounds. It would probably not help to make this too widely known.
David Davies, London

Agree (12) | Disagree (0)

To what mean will this figure regress, I wonder, or are we really faced with an increase?
Andrew Fraser

Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

It is impossible to make an omelette without breaking some eggs. If we as a society decide to prevent our Police from pursuing possible criminals who elect not to stop for them, then there will be an inevitable increase in crime. Police policy not to pursue riders who are not wearing crash helmets has resulted in a proliferation of moped/scooter-enabled crime. Society needs to decide what it wants and then prepare to pay the price of its choice. That price can come in the form of more KSIs, more funding for Police driver training, more crime, etc. Above all, do not expect Police to be effective when society has chosen to tie their hands behind their backs.
David, Suffolk

Agree (21) | Disagree (0)

Whilst the IPCC puts the firearms deaths into perspective by noting the 14,700 authorised firearms operations we have no similar figures for the number of pursuits or whether they ended with the vehicle being stopped or no.

Hence we are left guessing at what may be the cause of pursuit deaths. Is it lower standards or a greater number of incidents? Are the deaths innocent bystanders, associated passengers or the drivers being pursued.

What we have as a background is a woeful reduction in traffic policing which may well be increasing the number of offenders due to less fear of being caught.

Maybe what is required is a complete re-think on both the way traffic crime is policed and the way that police use the roads to police general crime.
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (19) | Disagree (1)

By the way, is the increase in road deaths a result of a corresponding increase in collisions, or is it a case of more severe consequences from the same number of collisions roughly? If the latter, it's less to do with driver training and discipline and more to bad luck and therefore no different to everyday, non-emergency vehicle collisions.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

Whilst TV documentaries highlight the alarming nature of pursuits, I think there is a growing culture of "acceptability". Drivers who are being pursued are doing it because the crime they have already committed is so serious that they need to evade the police and the potential court sentence. As shown by these stats, a chase is a potentially lethal activity and therefore to my mind it must be considered an offence in itself (or a significant aggravating factor to other driving offences) where the starting point in sentencing is custody if you do not stop when asked. "Dangerous driving" carries a high sentence tariff, but when was the last time you saw a court give a real message on this abhorrent behaviour in context of a chase that puts the police and public in danger.
peter, liverpool

Agree (17) | Disagree (3)

Pat: The article implies that the incidents were not necessarily in pursuit of criminals.

My beef is anyone - not just the police - driving at high speeds whilst not in full control, due to individuals' capabilities or the characteristics of the immediate environment. High speeds on Motorways and dual c/ways are not necessarily a worry for me, but in built-up areas - yes.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (3)

Weak police pursuit procedures would be like a guard dog with no teeth. By all means check the tragic events against the "authorised procedures" and take any necessary measures as a result to reprimand officers if appropriate or upgrade the procedures. Otherwise scaling back pursuits will just cause criminal behaviour to flourish even more.
Pat, Wales

Agree (19) | Disagree (2)

I am not sure that these stats relate to the numbers of actual police officers being killed in pursuit of others or of civilians either those being pursued or innocent bystanders.

There is a need for pursuit officers be trained to the highest possible standard but that is not obviously the case of those individuals that are being pursued and perhaps there is an argument that without the police pursuit then those individuals would not have had to try so hard to avoid capture. Thus there would be less incidents or collisions indeed if the police did not pursue in all cases there should be no casualties and no deaths.
gill craven

Agree (6) | Disagree (4)

Driving at high speeds in towns and cities with no safety margin makes this almost inevitable. The training may be considered adequate, but it relies on the individuals to put it into practice and I'm sure there must be a variance in driving skill amongst police officers. It would be interesting to know the circumstances of all police collisions and whether they really were unavoidable or not.

Imagine the sheer tragedy of a police car on an emergency dash to a reported injury-only collision only to be involved in a fatal collision itself on the way.

I have noticed on the many fly-on-the-wall police documentaries how little the police drivers seem to be scanning the road ahead and may not be seeing the peds and the other vulnerable road users referred to.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (6)