Local News

Stop Sticks Blow Tires, Prevent Deaths

Posted September 30, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— We all take a chance every time we drive on the highway. Even on good days it can be dangerous, but a high-speed chase can be deadly. Soon, every state trooper will have access to equipment that can stop a chase in seconds. The stop stick could save your life.

A chase is something every state trooper tries to avoid. But it is still part of the job. In a few weeks, that job will be a little easier, and much safer, in every county.

The Highway Patrol is adding stop sticks to every car. The spike-filled tubes puncture the tires of a fleeing suspect no matter how quickly he's driving. Trooper W.B. Vaughn tried them out in Wake County before the patrol invested statewide.

"You use them the way they're designed to be used," Trooper Vaughn explains. "It's going to take a chase from 100 miles an hour to about 15 miles an hour."

The technology is simple. The styrofoam tube is full of metal points that create tiny holes on impact. The tire goes flat in less than a minute, quickly enough that the car can't speed, but slowly enough that the driver doesn't crash into someone else.

"Most of the time, these people are going to stop and pull over," says Vaughn, "and maybe try to run on foot, and that's a lot safer for the people going down the highway."

Chases will probably be a part of state law enforcement for years, but thanks to new technology, they don't have to be as lengthy or as dangerous as before.

The Highway Patrol will shell out $300,000 dollars to equip its vehicles. The funds come from a recent lawsuit settlement, and from money the patrol saved by using decals on its cars instead of paint.