A high speed chase in Houston County resulted in the death of an innocent man, last weekend, after two men fleeing from law enforcement slammed into his car. During the chase, spike strips were used to stop the fleeing suspects, and now there are questions about how safe these spikes really are.
The use of stop sticks is common whenever a high speed pursuit breaks out, but they also prevent a speeding suspect from spinning out of control and injuring others.
Hollywood would have you believe that when a tire hits a spike, it pops causing the driver of the car to loose control and may even crash. But that's not what really happens.
"Once the steel tubes or spikes go into the tire itself, it creates a hollow channel, usually two side by side. That creates a slow leak and the air comes out in a very uniform manner," said Officer Frank Bissette of the Dothan Police Department.
With each tire leaking air slowly, a speeder is less likely to lose control of the vehicle and run into another car and cause a potentially fatal accident.
"Spike Strips are used to try and safely get the vehicle stopped and slowed down before anybody gets hurt," said Dothan Police Corporal Jeremy Collins.
Despite the effectiveness of spike strips, police often find themselves chasing a speeding suspect while trying to avoid causing an accident on the road. Which is one of the main reasons, police say, all high speed chases are dangerous no matter what.
Police in Dothan also make sure that they never use unmarked vehicles when conducting a high speed chase, so that other drivers can identify their patrol cars and try to steer away from the chase.
And if at all possible law enforcement officials try to avoid high speed chases, because it's usually the public and not the speeder that is at the greatest risk.
The Dothan Police Department was asked for assistance in this weekend's high speed chase. They lent that assistance by laying down a spike strip to try to slow down the suspect.