What is a PIT Maneuver?

B. Turner

The pit maneuver is a technique used by law enforcement to stop fleeing vehicles with minimal risk to the driver, the police, and the public. The acronym PIT has several possible meanings, including Precision Immobilization Technique, Pursuit Intervention Technique, and Precision Intervention Tactic, though the first of these is the most universally accepted. This technique is most often used to end police-involved car chases quickly and effectively to help reduce danger to the public.

In a PIT maneuver, a police car forces a car to spin out or stop.
In a PIT maneuver, a police car forces a car to spin out or stop.

The technique as it is used today likely originated in Germany, where it was used by German military and law enforcement. Some people believe that it may have been derived from the “bump and run” technique used in professional auto racing. It was first used in the US by the Fairfax, Virginia, police department during the 1970s. While the maneuver is considered a standard technique by most US police forces, it has been banned in the UK and other parts of Europe due to perceived danger.

Fairfax, Virginia, was the site of the first use of the pit maneuver in the US.
Fairfax, Virginia, was the site of the first use of the pit maneuver in the US.

During a pit maneuver, the pursuing vehicle pulls up alongside a target vehicle and rides parallel. The pursuing vehicle's front tires should be roughly lined up with the target's rear tires. To execute the move, the driver of the pursuing vehicle steers sharply into the side of the target, which causes the target vehicle to skid. The driver of the target vehicle loses control, and his vehicle is likely to either spin out or come to a stop.

A pit maneuver is most effective on dry roads that are clear of traffic and pedestrians. Wet roads or bystanders make this move too dangerous in most instances. It is also helpful to have more than one pursuit vehicle involved, as the vehicle executing the maneuver will need time to recover control after the impact. Additional pursuit vehicles can deal with the suspects in the target car or assist with injuries if things go wrong.

The use of this technique is not taken lightly, and law enforcement must typically seek approval before employing it during a chase. Approval is typically only granted if the target vehicle presents an immediate danger to the public or its occupants. The maneuver works best at speeds close to 35 miles per hour (55 kph), and when vehicles are of a similar size and height. At higher speeds, alternative methods such as spike strips or tactical vehicle boxing are safer and more effective.

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Discussion Comments

anon1003720

Unfortunately "PIT" maneuvering is improperly taught to all police agencies. Their system creates several dangerous situations. It requires softly contacting the target and using steering off center lock to apply lateral thrust to the side of the target.

Wrong! This requires additional time and puts the police car's steering wheel into counterbalance with the thrust factor applied to the police car. This requires the officer to counter steer while the police car's longitudinal movement is angled away from the road center line.

The proper move is to have no steering lock off center, steering the cruiser into an intercept trajectory. This way the momentum and closing speed are at least five to 10 times the currently taught "nudge" system. The cruiser's steering will kick back, but the steering wheel will be in the straight ahead position and much easier to recover from the reactive thrust of the impact.

Meanwhile this will cause the tail of the offending vehicle to jump much more significantly meaning it will much more rapidly leave it's former vector. This will require much more countersteer on the perp's part, but guess what? Once the angle of the vehicle forces the vehicle past what the front tires can manage, all steering control is lost! This is why only the best and most fortunate NASCAR drivers can recover from tail ends breaking loose. Yes, they do exceed the tire's capability, but speed is scrubbed off rapidly enough that the counter steer will allow the sliding tires to regain adhesion when the side force vector is minimized by steering angle.

If this is maneuver is done early in the chase, rather than waiting till Jesus comes back like most cops do, the target car will snap into a hard rotation with the cop car aimed straight at him if further contact is required.

I'd be glad to demonstrate but police are so damned cocky and self impressed they would never give me a chance.

jonesloop

can a chased vehicle perform the pit maneuver on himself by drifting into the front corner of a pursuing vehicle?

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