Of the approximately 300 people killed each year in the United States from vehicle crashes related to police pursuits, nearly one-third of those are innocent people, according to a study by researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.
The report is based on an analysis of nine years of data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the Crashworthiness Data System of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The results of the study, led by Frederick Rivara, professor of pediatrics and adjunct professor of epidemiology, appear in the April issue of the journal Injury Prevention.
From 1994 to 2002, researchers found, there were 2,654 crashes involving 3,965 vehicles and 3,146 fatalities. During the nine-year period, there were between 260 and 325 police pursuits each year ending in fatalities.
Of the fatalities during that period, about two-thirds of those killed were traveling in the fleeing vehicle, researchers found, while 30.1 percent were occupants of vehicles not involved in the police pursuit. Forty police officers and 102 pedestrians and bicyclists were also killed during that nine-year period.
Many crashes occur in the dark, at high speeds, and often on local roads, researchers found. Vehicles fleeing from the police were traveling an average of more than 25 mph over the speed limit at the time of the crash.