Facts & Statistics
It's not about numbers. It's about people—real people. Print the Fact Sheet!
Collision Factors . ..Deaths . .Myths . .Pursuit Terms . . Siren Factors. . Research .. Why police pursue?
Contact us: We will e-mail to you
professional quality 60-, 30-
and 15-second video messages
in a ".mov" format.
Contact us via e-mail or
Watch our other PSAs on YouTube.
• Crashes as a result of police chases and police response calls kill more than one person a day, and one-third of the people killed are innocent bystanders.
• On average, these crashes kill one officer every six weeks.
• According to a 2004 Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center analysis of nine years of national statistics [submitted on a voluntary basis], "One third of these pursuit fatalities occur to innocent bystanders.”
• The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gathers pursuit fatalities on a voluntary basis. A 2002 FBI Bulletin notes, “The absence of mandatory reporting hampers the government’s ability to track the actual number of deaths.” Under-reporting of pursuit fatalities still exists today. According to NHTSA, crashes as a result of police pursuits kill at least one person a day. Sometimes, it is more than one person a day. Of those killed, at least a third are innocent bystanders.
• PursuitSAFETY no longer uploads data from NHTSA, since the data is incomplete.
The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin...
"Police pursuit records provide some frightening statistics.
• First, the majority of police pursuits involve a stop for a traffic violation.
• Second, one person dies everyday as a result of a police pursuit.
• On average, from 1994 through 1998, one law enforcement officer was killed every 11 weeks in a pursuit. [By 2010, that number increased to one officer killed every six weeks in a pursuit.]
• Innocent third parties who just happened to be in the way constitute 42 percent of persons killed or injured in police pursuits.
• Further, 1 out of every 100 pursuits results in a fatality.” —The FBI Report
USA Today, April 22, 2010: About 360 people are killed each year in police chases, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina who has studied police pursuits since the 1980s, says the actual number of fatalities is "three or four times higher." Another complicating factor: bystanders killed after police stop chasing suspects — even seconds afterward — are not counted.
|91.4% of all chases are for non-violent crimes.
—The IACP Police Pursuit Database, 2008, page 56 (pdf)
"90 seconds. That's the time an officer saves between driving 80 and 100 mph over a 10-mile stretch."
—Former Illinois State Police director Larry Trent
Pursuits are the most dangerous police tactic, killing more innocent bystanders than a bullet from an officer's firearm.
“A traffic crash constitutes the most common terminating event in an urban pursuit.”
It is estimated there are about 70,000 chases each year in the United States. However, there is no national database to provide this information. PursuitSAFETY's stance on penalties for drivers who flee.
Chronic underreporting of pursuit-related fatalities is a problem.
“Most people agree that these pursuits should be controlled. Yet, researchers note a widespread lack of accurate data on the subject. The lack of a mandatory reporting system hampers attempts by NHTSA to track pursuit fatalities and results in the collection of as little as one-half of the actual data."
PursuitSAFETY's professional advisory board members concur with the FBI report and affirm that the actual number of fatalities is “two or three times higher” than NHTSA’s figures.
Police chase fatalities are underreported for a number of reasons, including the following:
·It's voluntary. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses a voluntary tracking system to collect information. It is not a report of the actual number of all deaths, especially the deaths of innocent bystanders as a result of vehicular police chases and response calls. Information to NHTSA is given—or not given—at the discretion of each individual law enforcement agency.
·No independent oversight at the state or national level of the information submitted to NHTSA.
·No independent investigations: Often, police officers or their agencies will make the determination that a crash occurred right after a pursuit was "terminated," hence the crash is not pursuit-related. (Source: FBI Journal Report)
·Inadequate reporting: Officials from law enforcement agencies often change their minds about whether it was or was not a chase when innocent bystanders are killed. Consequently, these deaths of innocent bystanders are not counted in any government reports.
·Inadequate reporting: Babies and young children in the car whose driver is fleeing the police are not counted as innocent victims in the government's report. They are recorded as "occupants of fleeing vehicle."
·Inadequate reporting: Chases for suspected DUI are sometimes reported solely as DUI fatalities, and
- PursuitSAFETY’s professional advisory board members concur with the FBI report and affirm that the actual number of fatalities is “two or three times higher” than NHTSA’s figures. NHTSA uses a voluntary tracking system, with information given—or not given—at the discretion of each individual law enforcement agency. Consequently, there is no national database that uses a mandatory reporting system, and there is no independent state or federal oversight of the information submitted to NHTSA. The information from NHTSA does not reflect the actual number of deaths as a result of police chases and response calls.
35-40 percent of all vehicular police pursuits end in a collision. The IACP Police Pursuit Database, 2008, page 17 (pdf)
From the FBI Report: "50 percent of all pursuit collisions occur in the first two minutes of the pursuit, and more than 70 percent of all collisions occur before the sixth minute of the pursuit.”
Why police pursue?
· 42.3% Traffic violation
· 18.2% Vehicle was believed to be stolen
· 14.9% Driver believed to be intoxicated (DWI)
· 8.6% Violent felony
· 7.5% Non violent felony
· 5.9% Other misdemeanors
· 2.6% Assisting other departments
100.0% Total — The IACP Police Pursuit Database, 2008, page 56 (pdf)
Only 24% of drivers can hear and determine from which direction a police car and its siren are traveling. (ALERT International Conference, September 2008.)
In the case of excessive speeds, some drivers won’t hear the siren at all because they are just behind or catching up to the sound.
"Innocent third-party drivers who do hear the siren have no time to react." —Ret. Police Chief D.P. Van Blaricom, Bellevue, WA