Increased penalties for fleeing drivers: "inevitable but unlikely to make much difference"

Increased penalties for drivers who flee from the police are mainly a political response and will do little to prevent these crimes, says the car review website editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says:

“The lawmakers are assuming that young people think before they flee from police. All the best evidence suggests the opposite. Most of these fleeing drivers are young idiots who don’t think before they do anything. If they were smart they wouldn’t flee from the police. The fact that they are fleeing from the police generally means they’re too reckless or stupid to realise the risks they are taking.”

“Aside from the fact that these drivers are generally uneducated, they’re also young, and the part of the brain that understands cause and effect doesn’t fully develop until early adulthood.”

Matthew-Wilson says the research is quite clear: “the threat of fines and disqualification do not reduce the risk of offending by the groups most likely to cause fatal crashes. Nor does the threat of losing their cars make much difference.” 

Matthew-Wilson gave the example of the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill, passed by the previous National Government in 2009. This law allowed the cars of boy racers to be seized and crushed, This harsh new law earned former Police Minister Judith Collins the nickname 'Crusher Collins'. And while the headline-grabbing law was widely praised, figures later released from the the Ministry of Justice showed that just three vehicles were ever crushed, and one of these vehicles wasn’t actually the car driven by the offender.

Matthew-Wilson adds: “There are now more young idiots offending than ever. This harsh new law made little difference at all.”

Matthew-Wilson understands the frustration that the police and public feel about ram-raiders and other young criminals in cars.

“The police are under heavy pressure to be tough on crime.. The announced changes in police pursuit policies are undoubtedly at least partly in response to this pressure. There is also widespread resentment among frontline police officers. They hate having to let young yobbos give them the fingers then drive off in a cloud of tyre smoke. But the bottom line is: while these harsher laws are inevitable, they are unlikely to make much difference"

Matthew-Wilson supports the current police pursuit policy, saying it is based on solid science and has saved multiple lives.

“Obviously, something needs to be done about these offenders, but chasing them till they crash solves nothing and increases the risk to the fleeing drivers, police and public.”