During the early 1980s police car chases were a common and very dangerous occurrence.
Basically, if a driver failed to stop for the police, a long convoy of police cars would pursue the vehicle at high speeds, day or night and in most road conditions.
At times a senior officer may try and intervene and call off the pursuit but due to ‘poor radio reception’, officers often claimed they hadn’t heard that order and continued the pursuit.
Officers trained to basic police driving standards would drive 1100cc panda cars in pursuit of Ford Sierra Cosworths. These officers would sometimes get so carried away they would not even allow an advanced police driver in a more high-powered vehicle to overtake them and lead the pursuit. Quite rightly, these dangerous tactics have been consigned to history and the number of police pursuits are now less frequent and only conducted by appropriately trained drivers in suitable vehicles.
In fact, it is now quite the norm for pursuits to be stopped by a senior officer and for a helicopter to be used to monitor the errant vehicle.
It would be a mistake to think most drivers who fail to stop for the police have committed a serious offence, such as an armed robbery.
The most common reason tends to be around disqualified driving, no insurance and on occasions simply an attempt to goad the police and outrun them.
Despite the obvious dangers to other road users, such drivers often receive only small fines, further disqualification or suspended prison sentences, if indeed they are actually caught. These sentences are not a deterrent and don’t reflect the seriousness of the offending.
I really like the approach that New South Wales, Australia, have taken to this problem, as they implemented Skye’s law in 2010, named after an 18-month old baby who was killed by armed robbers fleeing a crime in a getaway van.
Any person who fails to stop for the police and then drives dangerously is liable to three years in prison on first conviction and five years upon a second conviction.
I understand this law has led to a considerable reduction in drivers failing to stop for the police, as the potential sentence is far higher than most traffic or criminal misdemeanours. This is the kind of law which is needed in the UK and would help further reduce the need for police pursuits.