Earlier this week, Eliot Alfred Carvajal, was allegedly driving drunk and led Austin Police Department officers on a police chase (with speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour) that started in North Austin on I35 and ended in a fatal collision in South Austin near Brodie Lane. As the car neared Brodie, Carvajal lost control of the vehicle and wrecked. One unindentified passenger in the car was killed, and two others were seriously injured.
Earlier this month, a Fayette County police chase also ended in a fatality when the driver of the car apparently shot himself while driving.
While neither of these resulted in collateral damage — injury to those uninvolved in the chase — they do raise the question about whether these type of risks are acceptable. Do we want innocent people — kids, soccer moms, teachers, etc — put at risk by law enforcement officials engaging in high speed chases? For example, last September, an innocent Austinite was killed in a police chase after the SUV the police were chasing hit him head on. Later that month, an innocent pedestrian was seriously injured following another chase.
Sadly, Austin isn’t unique. Ironically, USA Today ran a feature story just a few days ago detailing the risk of high-speed chase policies. Their study found that one-third of those killed in high speed police chases are innocent bystanders, and those numbers may be underreported because there is no mandatory reporting system for deaths in pursuit cases. As a result of these injuries, police departments and governmental agencies across the country are looking at modifying policies relating to police chases.
But where does that leave us? Do we continue to have a number of Central Texas high-speed chases? Do we ask law enforcement to consider using safer alternatives? Do we draw the line and say “no high speed chases”? Or do we say, “we’re Texas, and we’re catching the criminal regardless of the cost?”
Only time will tell.