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Fatal Police Chases Increased in NC and Nationwide, Despite Calls for Fewer Pursuits

According to local news sources, the number of fatal police chases in North Carolina and across the nation has been rising, despite numerous calls to reduce such pursuits. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals a troubling trend: deadly police pursuits in North Carolina escalated from nine in 2018 to 22 in 2022. Over a decade, 138 individuals lost their lives in these pursuits, with North Carolina police rarely held accountable due to the high legal standard of proving "gross negligence."

Increasing Fatalities and Safety Concerns

From 2012 to 2022, North Carolina saw an increase in fatalities related to police chases. Among the 138 deaths, 72 were occupants of vehicles fleeing police, 61 were drivers in other cars, and two were officers. In 2022 alone, 24 people died in 22 chases, highlighting the dire consequences of high-speed pursuits.

The rise in police chases coincides with other public safety issues, including increased violent crimes and risky driving behaviors post-pandemic. The number of Highway Patrol pursuits in North Carolina more than doubled from 454 in 2019 to 1,053 in 2022, resulting in 29 deaths and 49 serious injuries.

Recent Incidents Highlight the Dangers

Several recent incidents underscore the dangers of police chases. In Person County, a pursuit ended with two cars colliding, injuring both drivers. In another case in Wake County, an 18-year-old driver evading police crashed and died after running a red light, causing injuries to another driver. These incidents are part of a larger pattern drawing attention to the safety risks involved in police pursuits.

Calls for Policy Changes

A 2023 national report, produced by the U.S. Department of Justice, NHTSA, and the Police Executive Research Forum, recommends limiting police pursuits to cases involving violent crimes. The report emphasizes that apprehending a suspect can often wait, but lives lost in high-speed chases cannot be restored.

Despite these recommendations, local law enforcement policies vary. For example, the Durham case in 2018, where a suspect fleeing police caused a fatal crash, led to a $2.5 million settlement. This case highlights the need for improved training and standardized pursuit policies to prevent such tragedies.

Impact on Bystanders and Communities

High-speed chases often result in collateral damage. In Knightdale, a chase caused a power outage for hundreds after the fleeing vehicle hit a utility pole. Incidents like these affect not just the immediate participants but entire communities, raising questions about the balance between law enforcement and public safety.


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Get the Legal Support You Need

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