All police chases which led to a record 14 deaths this year were sparked by minor offences, rather than serious crimes.

Figures released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show only one of the nine pursuits followed "suspected criminal offending" and that was minor a laser being shone at traffic from a motorway overbridge.

The driver fled police and crashed in Onehunga in September, killing Jaycherre Penelope Makakea and Joseph Jack Tahai, both 20.

Police listed the other reasons for pursuit as manner of driving (in four cases), suspected drink driver (two), speed (one) and unspecified (one).

There were 1793 pursuits in the year to October 11, resulting in 272 crashes, 88 injuries and 14 deaths.

The figures appear to challenge the policy of giving officers wide discretion to chase, which an American expert has criticised as unsafe.

Geoff Alpert, a consultant to police in North America, described New Zealand's approach as out of step with a trend to restrict chases to violent offenders.

Discretion had been "restricted drastically" in much of the US and Canada because of the the number of fatalities and the enormous expense arising from pursuit crashes, Dr Alpert told the Herald in September.

Public opinion in the US had swung away from pursuits of minor offenders because of the number and severity of crashes.

The number of pursuits in New Zealand has more than doubled since 2004 to a peak of 2510 last year.

A road safety campaign group, the Candor Trust, says the increase reflects a quota system on ticketing speeding and drinking divers.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor rejected that claim and said policy in the US had been influenced by lawsuits arising from pursuit-related accidents.

Mr O'Connor said a lawless minority was "incentivised to have a go by tightened policies" because they believed police would abandon the pursuit.

Most public debate was on police policy, and not enough was on changing the behaviour of those who fled.

Judges never imposed the maximum $10,000 fine for a refusal to divulge who was driving, and fines imposed were often not collected, Mr O'Connor said.

The association wanted a law enabling vehicles to be seized if an owner refused to identify the driver.

Police made minor adjustments to pursuit policy in June after the fourth review in six years.

Since then, five pursuits have ended in deaths.