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Motor Vehicle Pursuit-Related Fatalities in Australia, 2000-11

NCJ Number
Matthew Lyneham; Alana Hewitt-Rau
Date Published
June 2013
10 pages
This issue of the Australian Institute of Criminology's Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice presents data on motor vehicle pursuit-related fatalities in Australia for the years 2000-11
The study found that although fluctuating, the number of pursuit-related fatalities has generally declined over the last 12 years, with an average of 15 crashes and 18 deaths each year. The death rate from pursuit-related crashes has also remained relatively stable since 2004, with the exception of two small increases in the rate in 2006 and 2009. Pursuits leading to fatalities most often involved young males under 25 years old. Indigenous Australians were overrepresented among the pursuit-related deaths, with 17 percent of the total deaths being of Indigenous persons. In almost 9 out of 10 cases, the alleged offender driving the vehicle being pursued had consumed alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both drugs and alcohol prior to the initiation of the pursuit by law enforcement officers. The most prevalent type of offense committed prior to a fatal pursuit was motor vehicle theft (31 percent), followed by drunk-driving offenses (19 percent). Eight-eight percent of the pursuits that resulted in fatalities were initiated because of an improper or unsafe operation of a motor vehicle. In an effort to reduce the risks of a pursuit-related fatality, police agencies in Australia and overseas have developed restrictive pursuit policies that limit the discretion of officers regarding the decision to pursue. The report identifies several areas that require further research in order to improve knowledge about motor vehicle pursuits and provide policymakers with a stronger evidence base for reform. The primary source of data for this report was the Australian Institute of Criminology's National Deaths in Custody Program. 7 tables, 4 figures, and 45 references