We’ve seen it on TV and the movies. A driver speeds past an officer and the officer gives chase, but high speed chases don’t just happen on the big screen. They happen in real life.
According to the North Carolina Highway Patrol troopers were involved in 362 high speed chases in our state in 2010.
1st Sgt. Jeff Gordon says, “We are going to stop people or try to stop people that are just not going to stop and they’re going to flee and we are going to try and get them stopped the best they can.”
Gordon says there are risks. He says, “Any time you’re engaged in a pursuit there is always an element of danger.”
Danger for the officer, the person being chased and others in the area.
1st Sgt. Ray Snead says, “We are dealing with lives here and property.”
Out of the 362 chases in 2010, 268 suspects were apprehended. There were 29 collisions, 10 3rd party injuries, 1 3rd party fatality, and 4 violators killed.
Officers often have just a split second to decide whether to pursue or not. That’s why troopers say training for high speed chases is so important.
Snead says, “We aren’t out there looking for pursuits, they are going to happen people are going flee from law enforcement and we want to be trained the best we can to handle these pursuits that we are involved in."
One of the best tracks in the country for that type of training is in Raleigh. It’s where many officers in Eastern Carolina go to train.
Officers say they try to make situations on the track as realistic as possible.
Snead says when he is pursuing a vehicle it’s important to remember, “Safety is number one, that’s what you’re thinking about the entire time, safety, but you’re scanning the entire area, taking in the totality of the situation and making good sound judgment decisions.”
Snead says officers also need to look at road conditions, weather, and the amount of traffic in the area. At any moment troopers can disengage the pursuit if there is a safety issue, but officials say it’s also important to remember who they could be letting get away.
Gordon says, “We have stopped people for traffic violations that have just committed a murder or who were wanted in another state.”
According to Gordon a high speed chase occurs most often after troopers have attempted to pull someone over for speeding or suspicion of DWI. They say high speed chases occur more often between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m. and on Saturdays. On average the violator is often the age of 21 to 29.
Gordon says, “We can’t dictate on whether someone determines on whether they want to stop or when they want to flee. The only thing we can do is try to do the best job that we can and basically put our best foot forward and that's what this track is allowing us to do.”
Officials with the Sheriff’s department or police department can also train at the track.
Gordon says he would like for every officer to be able to train every year for high speed chases, but because of budget restraints that isn’t possible.