Who pays for innocent drivers’ tires flattened by spike strips?

The in basket: Larry Mixer sent me the following inquiry after seeing what I’m sure will be a favorite story for his acquaintances for years to come.

“On Friday 9/16/2011, I was coming back from Northern California passing by Yreka,” he said. “I witnessed a pursuit of a truck-tractor without the trailer by several police cars.

“This pursuit went on for probably more than 50 miles, ending up near a rest stop by the Klamath River.

“In at least three places, I saw the police put down spike strips to stop the truck-tractor. It did not work, but they they did manage to flatten several other vehicles’ tires. Some that I saw had all four flat tires, others maybe one or two, and at least one truck-tractor rig with a trailer that had one front tire and maybe a couple on the trailer.

“I am wondering who is responsible for repair of the vehicles? These people were left with flat tires maybe 30 miles from the nearest repair place,” Larry said.

The out basket: I didn’t check with California, but in this state the state pays for the damage.

Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the Washington State Patrol office in Bremerton sent me the portions of the WSP regulation manual dealing with this.

“Every effort should be made to avoid uninvolved motorists running over the spike strip,” says the policy. “If an uninvolved motorist does run over the strip, the driver should be contacted as soon as possible to explain the situation. They should be assisted in obtaining tires (at state cost).”

Krista added, “Often, tire repair businesses can send a truck out to the side of the road where it would be fixed and the driver (sent) on their way.”

It bypasses the usual claim process, she said, with WSP handling all the paperwork.

As for the chase,the spike strips did flatten one of the fleeing truck’s tires, but that didn’t stop it. The chase ended when the suspect, for no apparent reason, said officers, steered the truck cab down a slope along the Klamath River and into the river on I-5. He waded and swam to the middle of the river, where he sank from view. His body was recovered the next day, when he was identified as 30-year-old Olympia, Wash. resident David Antonio Grier.


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