Safer tire-spike alternatives
At least five officers were killed last year while deploying tire deflation devices
Tire-deflation devices to aid in the termination of pursuits have been with us for most of the careers of cops working today, but their use is not without controversy. When the devices are used, fleeing drivers still push their vehicles on, sometimes running on the metal rims to try and escape the police.
Worse, at least five law enforcement officers were killed in 2011 while deploying tire deflation devices. These devices require officers to be in close proximity in order to place them across the road or pull them back before police tires hit them. That makes an easy target for the fleeing driver who is either trying to drive around the spikes or who decides to hit the officer intentionally.
There are several alternatives to tire spikes on the market, but they haven’t received wide acceptance in the United States. It might be time for U.S. law enforcement to depart from conventional thinking and tactics on this topic, and consider some options that can immobilize vehicles faster and with less risk to roadside officers.
Deployment takes less than a second, so it’s unlikely a driver would have time to react and drive around the spikes. When the target vehicle has passed over the spikes, the operator triggers the remote control again and the belt retracts in less than 1.5 seconds. The operator can be completely out of view of the target driver, and thus less likely to be injured.
The Viper is a product of Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Co.
The pod spits out six barbed straps in a star pattern, all still attached to the pod at the center. The barbs catch the front tires and hold onto them, then detaching from the pod. When the pod detects engine heat, a second gas cartridge fires, deploying sticky tendrils up and out from the pod. The tendrils intertwine with the straps, and the whole mess wraps around the vehicle’s wheels and axles, immobilizing it within 500 feet. The pod base can then be recovered to be re-armed at the factory.
There are several variations on the SQUID design, intended for heavier vehicles or fixed location installations.
The Viper is also marketed as the SQUID Strip by ESA.
It’s important to note that all of these alternative devices stop vehicles relatively slowly, so that the occupants are not likely to be injured by the sudden deceleration. For example, a data sheet supplied by QinetiQ indicates that the X-Net will stop a Ford F150 pickup truck traveling at 30 miles per hour in 151 feet. Conventional tire deflation devices do the same thing by manufacturing the penetrating hardware as hollow “quills” that stick in the tire and allow the air to escape gradually, rather than blowing out the tire all at once.
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