On May 20, 2010, Raleigh television station ABC11 released a report indicating that North Carolina Highway Patrol Troopers crashed their vehicles at a rate of 7 wrecks per week for the calendar year 2009, an average of one crash per day.
Three days after the release of this report, an accident involving a State Trooper took the lives of 2 innocent victims. Trooper J.D. Goodnight was traveling 120mph just before he crashed into Sandra Allmond’s vehicle, killing her instantly. An 11 year old passenger was also killed.
In an interview with Capital Broadcasting Company, Highway Patrol spokesman Sergeant Jeff Gordon advised that there is no regulation concerning the speed limit a trooper may reach while pursuing traffic enforcement. High-speed police chases are not occurring just in North Carolina. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, rules regarding police pursuits were recently changed. The old rule only required that the officer have reasonable suspicion of a crime before engaging in a pursuit. Now, an officer must find probably cause that the suspect committed a violent felony before engaging in a pursuit.
Opponents of limits on when an officer may engage in a high speed chase fear that criminals will become bolder, and that officers may be subject to investigation based on spilt-second decisions. There is also fear that the suspect will do even greater harm to the general public if the suspect is not apprehended. On the other hand, according to Geoffrey Alpert, professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina, 35%-40% of all police chases end in crashes. Professor Alpert opined that “restrictive chase” policies save lives.
While North Carolina Highway Patrol does not have any regulations pertaining to high speed chases in traffic enforcements, other jurisdictions are enacting limits on chases, sadly, however, only after similar tragic events such as this one.