Opinion: End epidemic of police pursuits

By Doug Laing -
25 comments

Fresh on the tail of the announcement of the New Year honours it might be pertinent to look ahead 12 months and reserve one for whoever can bring an end to the epidemic run of police pursuits on our roads.

They've grown in increasing regularity since actor Steve McQueen indulged his love of speed at the wheel on the streets of San Francisco after a hitman in the 1968 movie Bullitt, and Gene Hackman commandeered a Pontiac LeMans to chase the drug crooks through the streets of New York in the 1971 movie The French Connection.

But while the focus in the movies was on the good guys - the chases becoming moments of movie history as celebrated as the stars who played the roles - the modern chase seems to be run more amid a glorification of the bad guy, even if they're popularly labelled idiots or being chased at speeds not much quicker than running pace. They've been watched by millions through the ogre of reality TV ratings battles in the United States, where in 2010 it was reported at least one person was killed every day in a pursuit across the states, including police officers at the rate of one every 11 weeks.

There were 323 deaths from the vehicles which crashed in 2007, and more among pedestrians who couldn't get out of the way, but all in all it was more than were killed by floods, tornadoes, lightning and hurricanes combined.

In New Zealand, pursuits - most, fortunately, ending within two or three minutes - seem now to be happening almost every day, as if the stateside trend is one to hop on to just to be hip, to the point where doing a runner at the wheel of a car seems a popular option when declining an invitation to stop for a chat with an officer at the side of the road.

In a society where Facebook commentary has become the equivalent of the Unites States' reality TV, it is the society that has created the problem. So, please society, fix it.

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