A long strip of hollow spikes, used to flatten automobile tires. Designed as a way to end high speed chases, spike strips are fairly effective at achieving this goal. Their functionality is simple: you lay the strip over a fairly deserted road, you wait for the offending car to run over the strip, and you hope you don't cause too much collateral damage.

The spikes are hollow for safety reasons. If the spikes were solid, running over them at 90-100 MPH, which is a typical speed in a high speed chase, would cause a blowout and probably a bad accident. The hollowness, and general fragility of the spikes, leads them to stick into the car, giving a thin hole in which air can slowly escape from the vehicle. This lets the air out much slower, causing the vehicle, in theory, to slow down and stop, without possible injury to life and limb.

The more cynical among you may be asking why hollow spikes are important, why not just let the fscker get into an accident? There are actually to very good reasons why letting such an event happen would be a Bad Thing. The first reason is the obvious; the police are not the judge and jury, their job is just to bring a suspect into custody, not to pass sentence; having someone roll over a couple times in their car, especially when there could be innocent people involved, would endanger many people. The second, though less obvious, is also important. Spike strips are a scorched earth type of tool. Not only do you take out the tires of the suspect's car, you usually damage the tires on one or more police cars. So, maximizing their safety is important as well.

The typical use of spike strips goes as follows:

  1. Suspect gets into a chase
  2. Police get tired of the chase, decide enough is enough
  3. Police deploy spike strip
  4. Suspect runs over spike strip, getting a few flat tires.

    Now it gets interesting. The following event doesn't always happen, but it does happen fairly often.

  5. Suspect continues to drive on flat tires, destroying the tires, rims, wheels, and occasionally, entire car. Many times, when a car is finally spike stripped, the driver has lost whatever little respect for their own property they had, and thus, even their own property is insignificant.

In the future, new technologies may make spike strips, and perhaps high speed chases, a thing of the past. Exotic ideas, such as small EMP generators designed to kill the electronics of a car, to remote activated kill switches, may mean that police can halt cars without any of the expensive side affects of spike strips, thus potentially saving hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars per chase. Perhaps the biggest problem with these newer technologies is that they have been in the Real Soon Now phase for the last several years, with no sign of being any closer to reality. So, for the time being, spike strips are still utilized.

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