I’m sure I haven’t been alone in wondering what it’s like to legally hurtle along a motorway at more than 150mph.Now, after unintentionally riding shotgun in an unmarked police car to catch a driver who’d failed to stop, I know (writes James Baggott).
Traffic cop PC Rob Lewis and I are taking a break from an evening pounding the streets of Hampshire when a voice over the radio reveals an unfolding pursuit.
On the far reaches of the Eastern Roads Policing Unit’s patch – some 32 miles away from where we’re enjoying a much-needed fast food supper – an Audi A3 driver has refused to pull over for a police car.
Traffic cops from across the area have been scrambled to assist with the chase – and that includes us in an unmarked BMW 330d.
The young driver is leading cops on a merry tour of the back roads around Winchester and he is currently heading south towards the coast, showing no signs of giving up.
It’s just gone 10pm on a Friday night, so traffic is light as we leave the Eastern RPU base at Havant and join the usually-heaving M27.
With blues and twos flashing, PC Lewis picks up the pace and we’re soon in the higher rev ranges of the 3 Series. The unmarked car is packed with heavy kit, not to mention myself and a photographer, but yet still quickly tops three figures.
Traffic melts away in front of us. The unmarked car may by disguised in plain sight when its lights aren’t flashing, but now it’s obvious a police vehicle is fast approaching.
Blue and white LEDs are hidden in the grille, on the dash, in the wing mirrors and behind the numberplate and at night users wouldn’t even know it was unmarked as it approaches in the fast lane.
PC Lewis has the radio turned up in the car and we can hear his colleagues reporting the Audi’s latest whereabouts. There are several units involved in the chase now and despite the distance we’ve had to cover, at speeds mostly topping 140mph, we’ve managed to get very close to helping out.
We pull off the M3 near Winchester and PC Lewis informs the police control room he’ll wait in a layby to see if the chase comes his way.
It soon becomes clear it isn’t going to. The radio commentary explains the errant Audi has taken a turn off-road and is heading towards a small village.
PC Lewis asks us to punch it into Google Maps – we’re a long way out of his usual patch – and we make a series of turns until we’re on the same road as the runaway, heading towards each other.
Police control asks us to deploy a Stinger – a device which rapidly deflates all four tyres when thrown in front of the wheels.
PC Lewis says he’ll find a suitable location, but seconds later we hear ‘he’s crashed, he’s crashed’ on the radio.
Just a mile down the road, we find the just-crashed Audi, penned in by another unmarked police car.
The Audi driver has mounted a verge, taken out two signs and tried to get back on the road. He’s been caught behind a telegraph pole and cops have decided to use their BMW X5 to stop the chase dead.
When we arrive the driver has been arrested. We’re the third car to arrive – after the other unmarked BMW and a dog unit. Four other police cars soon arrive, flashing blue lights illuminate the crash scene.
‘This was a typical example of teamwork, county-wide, coordinated by our control room,’ explained PC Lewis. ‘A car that fails to stop can be a serious danger to other road users and needs to be stopped safely.
‘We came very close to this coming directly into our path and luckily it ended with no serious injuries.’
Rushing to the scene, experiencing the immense skill and concentration these officers utilise in their work every day, was quite an experience.
We may not have come into direct contact with the runaway vehicle until the very end, but during the chase we were engaged in the action on the radio and by playing our part in a huge pincer movement.
I still can’t believe we were lucky enough to be taken along for the ride.