Los Angeles, California is known for its movie stars, palatial estates, palm-lined boulevards, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But not everything in LA is glitz and glamour. Los Angeles is also known as one of the car chase capitals of the world and home to one of the most infamous police pursuits of all time, the O.J. Simpson Bronco procession.
Most Angelenos have seen a car chase at least once in their lives. In fact, high-speed police chases happen more often than earthquakes around here. ABC News reports that on average, Los Angeles sees more than 1,000 high-speed car chases a year. And if you happen to tune in to any of LA’s local news outlets at the right time, you’ll likely get a front-row seat to the heartstopping live coverage.
Dangers of High-Speed Chases
High-speed car chases mean big ratings for the local TV news market. With every element that you’d find in a Hollywood action blockbuster, complete with helicopters and advanced camera technology, police pursuits are prime reality television for the general public. But the dangers are very real for those that get caught in the crosshairs. Innocent bystanders are often the losers in these high-speed police pursuits.
According to a 2017 report from Los Angeles County’s civil grand jury, police chases are “causing unnecessary bystander injuries and deaths,” and better training is needed to mitigate injuries and deaths that happen due to these wild car chases. The Los Angeles Times reported that a whopping 1 in 10 police pursuits involving the LAPD from 2006 to 2014 all resulted in some form of injury to bystanders.
The Los Angeles Police Department offered a statement to explain the hysteria, “Pursuits are inherently dangerous and that is why the Los Angeles Police Department takes every step to develop tactics and mitigate the risk posed by these dangerous interactions.”
There are theories behind why Los Angeles metro sees more high-speed chases than any other county in Southern California.
- Weather: The year-round warm and sunny weather doesn’t exactly force unhinged drivers from slowing down. Other states have seasons that offer snow, sleet, and rain as natural deterrents for high-speed chases. Trying to evade law enforcement in two feet of snow is not something that can be sustained for very long, if at all.
- Car-Friendly Roads & Highways: The topography of the Los Angeles metro area is riddled with wide freeways, devoid of traffic lights, and winding roads that stretch through hills that are ideal for automobile enthusiasts. The endless asphalt jungle creates the perfect backdrop for high-speed chases to go on for hours.
- Law Enforcement Protocols: There are different protocols for LAPD officers than in other cities. There are times that law enforcement will decide to ‘hang-back’ and put safe distance between them and the vehicle they are pursuing. This is to protect the public. But that isn’t always the case. The LAPD is permitted to pursue suspects and in some instances intentionally hit the vehicle to force a wreck so they can apprehend them. That is when problems arise.
High-speed police pursuits are some of the most dangerous situations for bystanders. They are unpredictable, wild, and not easily contained. The numbers don’t lie. According to USA Today, from 2014 to 2018, 56% of fatalities that occurred during a police pursuit were individuals other than the fleeing driver. And since 1979, more than 5,000 passengers and bystanders have been killed due to high-speed chases.
It seems that education and community awareness is vital if we are to see a decline in these statistics. Improved road safety and implementing more police training to better handle high-speed situations could prove to be key to saving lives and preventing personal injury.
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