Fleeing driver events

The decision to flee can have significant and sometimes horrific consequences for the driver, their family and friends, the public and Police.

New Zealand Police fleeing driver policy prioritises safety over the immediate apprehension of a fleeing driver.

Therefore, Police need to ensure our response to drivers who choose to flee is appropriate and proportionate to the level of risk they pose and is as safe as possible.

Publications

As part of the recommendations from the fleeing driver review ‘Fleeing drivers in New Zealand – a collaborative review of events, practices and procedures’, the Evidence Based Policing Centre was commissioned to do research into the motivations of fleeing drivers.

Reports

Police reports quarterly on our progress against the Fleeing Driver Action Plan from the review ‘Fleeing drivers in New Zealand – a collaborative review of events, practices and procedures’.

Fleeing driver research reports
Research into the motivations of fleeing drivers conducted by the Evidene Based Policing Centre (EBPC).

Fleeing driver news

View news articles pertaining to fleeing drivers

Policy supporting safer approach to fleeing drivers

Police partners with Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency) and the Ministry of Transport to deliver the Road to Zero Strategy for 2020-2030. It sets out our vision for a New Zealand where no one is killed or seriously injured in road crashes.

We are committed to making our roads safer and that’s why we undertook to revise our fleeing driver policy which was released in December 2020.

The decision to flee can have significant and sometimes horrific consequences for the driver, their family and friends, the public and Police. Therefore, we need to ensure our response to drivers who choose to flee is appropriate and proportionate to the level of risk they pose and is as safe as possible.

Statistics

In 2018 there were 12 deaths and 39 serious injuries. In 2019 there were eight deaths and 53 serious injuries. In 2020 there were three deaths and 37 serious injuries. These are the numbers we are concerned with changing.

More data available: Road policing driver offence data

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Police concerned about the number of pursuits?


Yes. Pursuing fleeing drivers can put lives at risk of serious injury or death. That is why our response to drivers who choose to flee needs to be appropriate and proportionate for the level of risk they pose and is as safe as possible.

 

What is a fleeing driver event?


A fleeing driver is a driver who has been signalled to stop by a constable but fails to stop or remain stopped, or a driver who flees as a result of Police presence, whether signalled to stop or not.

When does a fleeing driver event start and end?


A fleeing driver event starts when a driver who is signalled to stop by Police fails to do so and ends when we close the investigation.

Why do drivers flee and why is the number increasing?


While Police can’t control the behaviour of a fleeing driver, we can choose to respond in a manner that is appropriate and proportionate to the level of offending, and that maximises safety for all road users.

The number of fleeing driver events fell over May-December 2020 and went up moderately in January 2021.

Under what circumstances does a fleeing driver event most often occur?


This information is not held.

How do Police decide when to pursue or not?


We need to ensure our response to drivers who choose to flee is appropriate and proportionate to the level of risk they pose and is as safe as possible. Before pursuing a fleeing driver we consider the safety of the public, vehicle occupants, and Police.

Where there is deemed to be no immediate need to stop a driver who has failed to stop or remain stopped for Police, a follow up investigation is preferred over the commencement of a pursuit.

Why is investigation of fleeing drivers preferred?


The fleeing driver policy prioritises safety over the immediate apprehension of a fleeing driver.

When a fleeing driver is not apprehended, Police officers will follow up investigations utilising CCTV, witnesses, avenues of enquiry, officer knowledge and basic Police work to identify the vehicle and the driver so they can be held to account.

Prior to the release of the revised fleeing driver policy in 2020, thirty percent of fleeing driver events were resolved by investigation without risk to the public, vehicle occupants and Police.

How have staff adapted to the safer approach to fleeing drivers?


Wellington Police District has a road policing team dedicated to following up fleeing drivers, illegal street racing, and drivers who repeatedly commit other high-risk driving offences.

In January 2021 Wellington Police District staff encountered 46 fleeing driver events. Two pursuits started but were quickly abandoned. The remaining 44 were not pursued as the risk posed by the fleeing driver event did not outweigh the risk of pursuit. Nineteen of these have been resolved with vehicle impoundment or arrest (43 percent), 14 have no avenues of enquiry (10 being motorcycles), and 11 are still under investigation (40 percent).

Seventy percent of officers have completed Fleeing Driver Online Learning with the aim to have 100 percent completion by June 2021. Police will continue to work with all staff to ensure the safer approach to fleeing drivers is properly implemented.

Do you think the fleeing driver policy is sending the wrong messages to drivers that they can get away with fleeing police?


The message to all drivers is we want a New Zealand where no one is killed or seriously injured in road crashes. Follow up investigations have proven successful so although we may not apprehend a fleeing driver immediately, we will, in order to hold fleeing drivers to account.

When was the fleeing driver policy last revised?


Police revised the fleeing driver policy in 2020. It was previously revised in 2016.

There are dangers in both abandoning and pursuing - how do we get the balance right?


Our focus is on making our roads safer. The revised fleeing driver policy is intended to reduce the risk of serious injury or death occurring during active pursuits. A fleeing driver event can have significant and sometimes horrific consequences for the driver, their family and friends, the public and Police staff. Therefore, we need to ensure our response to drivers who choose to flee is appropriate and proportionate to the level of risk they pose and is as safe as possible.

What’s being done to stop persistent offenders?


Our prevention first operating model aims to prevent crime before it happens, ultimately making New Zealand the safest country. We work with partners such as Iwi, community organisations and other government agencies to take every opportunity to prevent harm and reoffending.

We have seen the success of the eagle helicopter in Auckland catching fleeing drivers, do we need to see more choppers rolled out nationwide to help with this?


Police is not currently considering the purchase of additional helicopters.