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A small step on high-speed chase dangers

December 30, 2005—When in doubt on sticky public safety issues, state legislators prefer to be seen as "doing something" — even when something doesn't add up to much.

Put in that category a proposed bill that would come down hard on scofflaws who lead police on high-speed chases.

On the surface, the bill introduced by Sen. Teresa Lubbers, R-Indianapolis, sounds great. High-speed chases are public nuisances -- and deadly ones at that. Just this week, the news has been riddled with reports of chases, some of which topped 100 mph, in and around Tippecanoe County.

And police are increasingly being pressed to explain their actions when speeding vehicles start careening down residential streets and on high-volume roads. Officers, unfortunately, are stuck with a no-win decision: continue the chase through dangerous conditions, or back off and potentially let a bad dude get away.

That said, legislation that would set minimum jail sentences for those who flee police in a vehicle seems to make perfect sense and will likely meet overwhelming cheers from the do-something crowd in Indianapolis.

And that will be fine, as long as lawmakers don't sell this as a measure that will actually do something to cut down on the number of high-speed chases.

Anyone fleeing the police isn't thinking about mitigating factors in a potential sentence. In most cases, they've already done something wrong. Speeding off from the cops becomes an all-or-nothing act of desperation that another 30 days to one year in jail isn't likely to stop, no matter who good this bill makes anyone feel at the Statehouse.


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