On Saturday 3 people were killed when the car they were in ran over Police spikes, crashed into a tree and went up in a ball of flames. They were in a car that was the subject of an abandoned Police chase when it went over spikes that punctured the tyres, causing immediate and catastrophic loss of control. As families of the dead prepare to mourn the loss of their loved ones, it is time to have a look at why so many people are making the really silly mistake of running from the Police.
A Police chase starts because it is an offence to evade law enforcement. If the Police see someone has noticed their presence and is trying to evade, it is an offence to harbour or otherwise assist them in their evasion.
Despite this there is a long and sad litany of people who have or killed/injured others as a result of running away from Police chases.
- A pregnant woman and fleeing driver are killed in a two car collision.
- A vehicle in Lower Hutt flees the Police, flips, injuring 3
- An underage driver and passenger killed in a crash fleeing Police
I personally believe that the ability to stop a chase from happening before it starts lies solely in the hands of the person that the Police want to talk to. Simply stopping for the Police will save lives, money, and resources.
However that attitude change is not going to happen unless there is an effective deterrent. It needs to be something that is grave enough to make someone contemplating a pursuit think twice, such as a week or a month in jail for simply evading arrest. Few, if any will want an instant jail rap on their criminal record. The potential impact it would have on ones employment prospects and ability to obtain things like a passport or go overseas because they had committed an offence for which they would receive a jail sentence, is something the sentencing judge should consider remarking on – crime has consequences and often the longer term aspects such as loss of certain liberties could be better highlighted.
For their part though, Police might want to look at the case of Queensland, Australia where officers are only permitted to chase if there is an immediate danger to life or have good reason to believe a serious crime has just been committed. The same applies in the state of Victoria. In South Australia incident controllers can terminate a chase at any time. That said, a lot of chases in New Zealand only last a couple of minutes or even seconds, because Police see that the danger of continuing the pursuit is too hazardous and stop.
But it is all too late for three boys aged 13, 13 and 16 who are now dead, and devastated families wondering how it came to this.