What’s It Like Being in a High-Speed Chase?


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You’re more likely to see car pursuits in movies than in real life. These events are dangerous because they can cause fatalities, whether to drivers or bystanders. Additionally, they can significantly harm local infrastructure. The odds of being in one are low, so what’s it like being in a high-speed car chase? Here’s a guide to this dangerous highway event. 

What’s It Like Being in a High-Speed Chase?

Imagine cruising down the highway, trying to get home from work. You notice traffic has reached a standstill and can’t figure out why. Suddenly, a car comes whizzing by on the freeway with multiple cop cars behind it. Now, everything makes sense — there’s a high-speed chase going on. Here’s what it’s like being behind the wheel in a high-speed chase. 

1. High Speeds

Long exposure photography of roads and cars

These pursuits get their name for a reason. Drivers reach speeds you usually see only in GTA games or a Formula 1 race. 

The drivers are trying to evade police, so exceeding 100 miles per hour (mph) is commonplace, whether on the interstate or other open roads. For instance, a recent high-speed chase in Florida saw the culprits eclipse 100mph in a Toyota Camry before colliding with tractor-trailers. 

Driving at high speeds is dangerous for your life and the vehicle itself. Constantly driving over 100mph strains the engines and the brake pads, causing these parts to wear faster. Additionally, you increase the risk of a crash.

2. Crashes

Ford sedan involved in car accident

A high-speed chase often ends in a crash, so you’re better off not knowing what’s it like being in one. The rate of these pursuits has increased in the last three years compared to pre-pandemic numbers, depending on where you live. More high-speed chases naturally lead to increased crashes, risking the lives of drivers and pedestrians. 

Use Southern California as an example. The Los Angeles Police Department reports 971 pursuits in 2022, with 348 chases resulting in crashes. These numbers are a jump from 2019 when the department saw 651 pursuits and 260 collisions. The accident risk means getting far out of the way if you know a pursuit is heading toward you.

3. Fatality Risk

The reality of accident risks brings fatalities if the crash is bad enough. Driving at high speeds means more force and increased body trauma when vehicles collide, increasing your risk of dying. The San Francisco Chronicle compiled data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and public records requests to determine the harm from high-speed pursuits. Here are some of the numbers they found:

  • 3,336 total people killed from 2017 to 2022
  • 551 bystanders killed from 2017 to 2022
  • 52,600 people injured between 2017 and 2021
  • 1,377 deaths between 2020 and 2021
  • $82 million in lawsuits from police pursuits

4. Damaged Infrastructure

People aren’t the only things on the receiving end of harm. Unfortunately, local infrastructure knows what it’s like being in a high-speed chase. Careless drivers aren’t worried about stop signs, traffic lights and utility poles. Their cars will gleefully run over these obstacles to escape law enforcement, even if it means causing power outages or traffic jams. 

A high-speed pursuit could also lead to cars crashing into a building, compromising the safety of people inside. The worst damage from a chase could come from underground infrastructure damage. Imagine if a speeding car damages a sewage pipe, spewing contamination into the streets and sidewalks. This damage could make people sick if local officials don’t clean it in time. 

5. Carjacking 

Cars can only drive for so long before they run out of fuel or electricity, so the fleeing suspects will eventually have to stop. What’s their next option? Some may exit the vehicle and steal another one, hoping it came fresh from the gas station. Carjacking in this situation is a game of chance, so you never know if the culprits will eye your vehicle as the one to steal. 

The speedsters will drive down highways and into residential areas, so they’ll look for a new machine to steal. Which ones will they target? They’re most likely to look for unsecured cars unlocked and sitting in a driveway. Keep your car locked up in a garage because high-speed pursuits won’t allow time for breaking in the door. 

6. All Eyes on You

Smartphone displays a live stream while sitting on desk

Social media’s rise means live news events are more accessible than ever. You no longer have to be near a phone to watch news broadcasts. TikTok Live, Facebook Live and Twitch are a few examples of websites where people can see what it’s like being in a high-speed chase. Twitch has 240 million active users, so streams of car pursuits can quickly gather large audiences. 

While not necessarily a high-speed chase, the O.J. Simpson chase in Los Angeles was among the first widely publicized events. The pursuit drew 95 million viewers as people glued their eyes to their TV screens. This event interrupted coverage of the 1994 NBA Finals between the Houston Rockets and the New York Knicks.  

What Are Famous High-Speed Chases in Cinema?

Hollywood actors know what it’s like being in a high-speed chase, as many movies have included them throughout the history of cinema. Which scenes stand out the most? Here are our picks for the best high-speed chases in film. 

“Baby Driver”

Let’s start the list with “Baby Driver,” one of the biggest films in 2017. This movie’s high-speed chase is at the beginning when Baby’s crew robs a bank and flees the police. Baby uses a Subaru Impreza WRX and navigates the streets of Atlanta before getting away. 


“Bullitt” deserves a spot because lead actor Steve McQueen did his own driving for the film. In “Bullitt,” McQueen’s character drives a 1968 Ford Mustang through San Francisco while hitmen chase him with a Dodge Charger. The chase starts slowly but quickly escalates into a battle of two muscle cars. The hilly terrain of San Francisco does no favors either. 


Like “Bullitt,” you don’t see much dialogue or music at all. The scene’s intensity comes from car noises and the drivers’ focused faces. In this film, Robert De Niro chases Natascha McElhone through the streets of Paris in an action-packed pursuit. 

“Smokey and the Bandit”

“Smokey and the Bandit” is more lighthearted than the other movies but has an excellent chase scene. In the film, Burt Reynolds picks up a hitchhiker (Sally Ride) as they flee from her father, the county sheriff. Driving on backroads is essential for keeping up with the Bandit. 

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day”

If Arnold Schwarzenegger is in the film, you can bet there will be intense action. “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” has a daredevil scene where the T1000 chases the Terminator and John Connor. If you like explosions and nail-biting action, this movie is for you. 

What’s It Like Being in a High-Speed Chase? A Tough Scene

High-speed pursuits aren’t for the faint of heart. These chases can last for hours, risking people’s lives and damaging infrastructure. Have you ever seen one on the highway?

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