Let's have the following scenario, where a police officer is trying to pull a car over, but the car decides to try to run away. HOW fast is the police officer legally allowed to go when chasing the car?

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    Beyond the legal issue, as a practical matter, the top speed of a police car built for that purpose is about 155 mph. way.com/blog/how-fast-are-cop-cars
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 22:41
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    @ohwilleke Police also use helicopters in high speed pursuits which can go faster than that (at least over here, but I assume in Virginia too).
    – user44312
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 3:36
  • @ohwilleke that's seems fairly standard, but certainly in other places there are a few high-performance police cars, easily achieving 200mph+. US police forces probably have the same options
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 20:22
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    – feetwet
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 23:24

3 Answers 3


Here's the relevant statute for Virginia, 46.2-920

A. The driver of any emergency vehicle, when such vehicle is being used in the performance of public services, and when such vehicle is operated under emergency conditions, may, without subjecting himself to criminal prosecution:

  1. Disregard speed limits, while having due regard for safety of persons and property;

B. The exemptions granted to emergency vehicles by subsection A in subdivisions A1, A3, A4, A5, and A6 shall apply only when the operator of such vehicle displays a flashing, blinking, or alternating emergency light or lights as provided in §§ 46.2-1022 and 46.2-1023 and sounds a siren, exhaust whistle, or air horn designed to give automatically intermittent signals, as may be reasonably necessary.

Such exemptions shall not, however, protect the operator of any such vehicle from criminal prosecution for conduct constituting reckless disregard of the safety of persons and property. Nothing in this section shall release the operator of any such vehicle from civil liability for failure to use reasonable care in such operation.

So the law does not impose any specific speed limit. Department policy may still impose speed limits on its own officers in this situation, but violating department policy is not a violation of the law per se, if the violation of policy is not reckless. Of course, the million dollar question is what constitutes reckless disregard for the safety of persons and property.

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    Just to add to this, it would be unwise to publish any absolute upper limit, as that would arguably further entice scofflaws to drive faster than that upper limit. Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 19:08
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    @BenHocking Sure, I was thinking more of recommended limits on traveling to intercept or join the chase, not matching pace with the suspect. Fire and ambulance services presumably also have guidelines on speed when traveling to a scene. Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 20:00
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    @user71659 Wouldn't the police department be able to remove those speed limiters? especially since they already do extensive modding on their cars and probably replace the factory tires. Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 2:52
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    @stickynotememo Police departments put radios in, partitions, and push bar (bumpers) but they do not modify the powertrain. Pursuit tires come with the car. Safety issues. As I alluded to, there's other things that explode like driveshafts if you go too fast. Police departments aren't automotive engineers.
    – user71659
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 5:02
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    @ChrisH That's fine, but if you've looked at new US police cars recently, they're all mid- to full-size SUVs. This is in a large part due to fatal Crown Vic explosions after high-speed rear-end crashes, often by drunk drivers, but also from the inherent risk of stopping along highways. Another factor is American carmakers simply stopped making sedans. There's only so fast you can make a SUV go, particularly compared to a sports car like a Dodge Challenger or Corvette.
    – user71659
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 0:23

As fast as is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances, as long as it is for "police purposes" which includes pursuing a car that fails to stop.

Properly trained and qualified officers have an exemption to the posted speed limit under section 87 Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984:

(1) No statutory provision imposing a speed limit on motor vehicles shall apply to any vehicle on an occasion when it is being used for fire and rescue authority, for ambulance purposes or police purposes, if the observance of that provision would be likely to hinder the use of the vehicle for the purpose for which it is being used on that occasion.

For awareness, they also have statutory exemptions to observing keep left/right signs, and complying with red traffic lights. The latter are to be treated as a "give way" (aka yield in certain countries).

Although tagged , I have answered in line with the LawSE Help Centre: "we expect and encourage answers dealing with other jurisdictions ... please tag your answer using the tag markdown: [tag: some-tag]"

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    In Germany this is the same. They must still drive safely. That is why you see them often slowing down at an intersection when they assume that drivers left and right approching the intersection may not see the blue lights or hear the horn in time. Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 17:22
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    In UK the police pursuit cars have highly trained drivers but it has been recognised that the bigger danger is from vehicle being pursued, with a driver who is almost certainly less skilled, and in trying to escape, is pushed beyond their capability and causes the accident. So in many cases the pursuit is called off anyway. Sometimes the pursuit is taken over by a helipcopter which tries to position itself as unseen, and it can direct the cars to follow without causing pressure. Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 17:28
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    @WeatherVane Police helicopters (NPAS) don't always remain unseen. They also show themselves sometimes - either in line of sight or with the powerful Nightsun search light - to alert the driver that the game's up.
    – user35069
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 18:09

The speed limit for the road OR if it is reasonable in the circumstances that the speed limit should not apply, as fast as the driver, acting reasonably, determines

The relevant provisions are detailed in each state or territories’ road rules. Most have adopted a modified form of the Australian Road Rules.

These make it an offence to exceed the posted speed limit or, if there isn’t one, 50km/h in a built-up area (one with street lights) or 100km/h in a rural area. Police are bound to follow the road rules just like everybody else.

s305 provides an exemption for drivers of police vehicles if, in the circumstances, the police driver is taking reasonable care and it's reasonable that a provision of the road rules should not apply.

Every police force in Australia has guidelines on pursuit and an officer who follows those guidelines will almost certainly be found by a court to have been acting reasonably. Operating beyond the guidelines may also be reasonable in the circumstances.

Again, in every Australian police force, a pursuit, like the discharge of a firearm or taser, is a critical incident and will be subject to automatic investigation by a police integrity unit. Depending on the state, this may be part of the police force or an independent body.

If the pursuit results in a death, there will be a coronial inquest which will examine the lawfulness of the pursuit. Anyone harmed by a pursuit may seek compensation which will also examine the lawfulness of the pursuit.

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