The threat of jail terms for drivers who flee police will not stop young offenders, a criminal psychologist says.

Peter Coleman, an expert in youth offending, says teenage drivers who refuse to stop for police are too addicted to the adrenaline rush to consider the consequences.

"Young people who steal cars often don't do it just the once, but multiple times. It's something which they find highly exciting. It's all about the rush and the buzz."

Police Minister Judith Collins said on Tuesday that she would not rule out the idea of imposing a jail term for first-time offenders, a move which was raised by police after a record 16 people died in pursuit-related crashes last year.

On Wednesday, Timoti Mohi, 15, died when the stolen car in which he was fleeing police crashed on Auckland's Southern Motorway.

His family would only say the police had the story wrong, and they were still grieving the loss of the teenager.

Mr Coleman says there is no easy solution, but does not think the possibility of jail time would deter young offenders. It would only encourage criminal tendencies because they would be locked up with other offenders.

"Harsher penalties won't stop the offending," he said.

"What it might do is stop the offenders from being in circulation for a while. It's very difficult for the police and the courts because they're not only thinking about the young person, but also other potential innocent victims ...

"I don't think the incarceration of young people would help because they'd only be in the company of other offenders and might gravitate towards other criminal areas of offending."

Mr Coleman said youth offenders aged between 13 and 18 got locked into a cycle of criminal behaviour and would rather accelerate than stop because they often came from an environment where police were not particularly respected.

Most of the young people who fled police had very little driving experience and so part of the solution should start at driver-training with the teenagers' parents, he said.

"The problem is only getting worse as the stolen cars of choice are becoming more powerful. Teenagers are not mentally developed enough to control vehicles with higher horsepower.

"Mostly it doesn't matter because they're on a skateboard and so escape with a broken arm. But when you put them behind the wheel of a powerful car, that's another story all together."

Teenage motorists who refused to stop for police often did not have licences and usually had others in the car who shared the "thrill of the chase" and spurred the drivers on, he said.

"Any one of the passengers in the car could tell them to stop or say, 'Don't do this', but they don't. They're in on the buzz and are encouraging it."

He said there was a distinct difference between stealing cars for a joy-ride and taking them for spare parts. Those who stole cars for the thrill of it were often bored and reckless.

"I haven't seen much research and it varies from person to person, but I would suspect a lot of them would have come from relatively low socio-economic homes and neighbourhoods and this is one avenue for fun.

"One thing that I've noticed is that fatalities after a police chase are invariably in a stolen car. I don't think I can remember any incidents recently where someone has died from a police chase in their own car."