6 things cops should know about vehicle pursuits and running Code 3

Whether you're driving Code 3 or in a pursuit, remember to slow down when clearing intersections, don’t forget to breathe and beware of tunnel vision


There exists in law enforcement an interesting relationship between pursuit driving and Code 3 driving. Here are six safety considerations to remember when it comes to these two experiences.

1. Code 3 does not equal a pursuit. This is often misunderstood within our ranks, so you can imagine the confusion when the media or the public hears these terms. Code 3 is simply having one’s emergency lights and siren active. That’s it. Code 3 doesn’t equal hauling ass — you can roll Code 3 at 15 miles per hour.

2. If you’re in a pursuit, you’d better be Code 3. If your agency’s policy is anything like mine, this is required. I would hope it would be obvious why that policy exists. How many videos of police crashes have you seen where the officer was driving like a bat out of hell without any lights active? If you’re blowing intersections without the appropriate equipment active, you are most likely in violation of policy.

3. Pursuit driving is inherently more dangerous. We can certainly have slow speed pursuits, but that typically isn’t the norm. When you are pursuing someone, you’re putting yourself, the public and even the suspect at risk. Who do you think the public blames when someone gets injured or killed in a police pursuit? The suspect? Of course not. There are even agencies that have a policy to not pursue suspects at all. Keep an eye on your speeds. Take your driving capability into account. Don’t be afraid to terminate your own pursuit.

4. Both Code 3 and pursuit driving require your attention to conditions. If traffic is at the height of commute and the suspect is flying down the center median, it may be safer to let them go.

5. Use your agency’s assets during a pursuit. If it’s possible to call for air support, do so. The eye in the sky can pursue at a much safer distance with a much better field of view than units on the ground. If a K-9 is available, get them en route, too.

6. Keep your distance. Whether you are Code 3 conducting a run-of-the-mill traffic stop or pursuing a fleeing felon, perception/reaction time still applies. The accepted time for perception/reaction is 1.5 seconds. That means it takes 0.75 seconds to perceive and an additional 0.75 seconds to react to stimulus. If you’re driving at 70 mph, you are driving 102.69 feet per second (FPS). In 1.5 seconds, you will travel 154.035 feet. At 70 mph, you need to have a minimum of 154 feet between you and the vehicle in front of you. You need time to safely react.

Regardless of whether you’re driving Code 3 or in a full-blown pursuit, always remember to slow down when clearing intersections, don’t forget to breathe and beware of tunnel vision. Your safety, the safety of the public, your partner’s safety and even the suspect(s) depend on it.

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