How Often Are Innocent Bystanders Injured or Killed in Police Chases?

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Connecticut Criminal Defense LawyerHigh-speed car chases can be exciting in movies or TV shows, but when they take place in the real world, they are likely to cause serious injuries or deaths. When police officers choose to chase a vehicle, they often put multiple people at risk, including innocent bystanders such as pedestrians and people in other vehicles. While officers may pursue a person for a variety of reasons, often claiming that doing so is necessary to protect public safety, most police chases involve minor traffic violations rather than serious criminal charges

Injuries and Deaths in Police Chases

Determining the actual number of people who have been injured or killed because of police chases is somewhat difficult. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the primary source of data regarding traffic-related deaths. However, reports to the NHTSA by police departments do not always state that deaths occurred in a police chase, and records may not indicate whether a person who was killed was a participant in a chase or an innocent bystander. Determining the number of people injured is even more difficult since the NHTSA only tracks fatal accidents.

By analyzing data from the past several decades, researchers have estimated that an average of 323 people are killed each year in police chases, and innocent bystanders account for 27 percent of these deaths. While the actual number of injuries suffered in police chases is unknown, it is estimated that as many as 7,400 people per year are injured. Minorities are disproportionately affected, with Black people being three times more likely to be killed in police chases as either suspects or bystanders.

Far too often, police officers choose to chase a suspect unnecessarily. Researchers have analyzed data about high-speed chases from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and they found that 91 percent of chases occur when drivers are suspected of non-violent crimes, with traffic violations being the most common reasons that officers choose to pursue suspects. Even though many police departments have implemented policies that restrict chases to situations where a person is suspected of committing a serious or violent crime, many officers disregard these policies, and officials will often attempt to justify officers’ actions rather than taking action to enforce their policies. 

Contact Our Connecticut Criminal Defense Attorney

While injuries and deaths in police chases may not receive as much attention as other forms of police misconduct, they continue to affect many people. Officers’ dangerous actions often put the safety of the public at risk, and victims who are injured in these cases are often left unsure about what they can do to achieve justice for the ways they have been harmed. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we provide representation for those who have been charged with criminal offenses, and we also assist with personal injury cases involving victims who have been injured because of other people’s negligence. If you need to address legal matters related to police misconduct, contact our Hartford criminal defense lawyer at 860-290-8690 to set up a complimentary consultation.

Sources:

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/07/police-pursuit-high-speed-car-chase-deaths.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/07/25/why-police-shouldnt-chase-criminals/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/07/30/police-pursuits-fatal-injuries/30187827/



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