New app can warn drivers of approaching high-speed police pursuits

Initiative 2113, which restores police pursuits in Washington state, will take effect on June 6.

The bill was recently approved by the legislature and it removes restrictions on when officers can engage in a vehicular pursuit, so police will once again be able to go after anyone trying to flee if they have a reasonable suspicion that that person violated the law or poses a threat to the safety of others.

Critics argue that the danger posed to bystanders outweighs the need to apprehend suspects.

However, a new app called Digital Siren aims to address this concern. Developed by Pursuit Alert, Digital Siren enables law enforcement to send messages to cell phones warning individuals of an approaching police pursuit. This allows people to safely move out of harm's way. The goal is to reduce the risk to bystanders and innocent motorists during high-speed pursuits.

"The bad guys always run out in front-- they are usually driving fast. Our whole goal for innocent motorists is to raise awareness for 30 or 45 seconds to start looking around and watching for what's coming," said Ken Morgan with Pursuit Alert.

The app is free to use. Law enforcement agencies in six states have implemented the technology.

Morgan says he is actively working to bring Digital Siren to Washington state and is in discussions with multiple law enforcement agencies.

Morgan emphasizes the importance of raising awareness among innocent motorists during police pursuits. He explains that the goal is to encourage drivers to be more alert and vigilant for a short period of time, typically around 30 to 45 seconds, to ensure their safety.

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The cost for law enforcement to implement Digital Siren is approximately $200 per patrol car, along with a monthly usage fee. However, Morgan argues that this expense is justified when compared to the potential cost of an accidental death of a bystander, which can exceed a million dollars for cities or counties.

Morgan demonstrated the hardware installed in patrol cars, describing it as similar in size to a small TV remote. The device plugs into the computer in the police car and includes a small antenna that fits on the dashboard.

It features several buttons, including: a blue button for pursuit, a red button for emergency response or code 3 (lights and sirens), and a yellow button for a move-over warning. The move-over warning aims to protect officers on the side of the road during traffic stops or accident scenes.

Additionally, Pursuit Alert is developing software technology that would eliminate the need for the hardware device in patrol cars. Digital Siren currently works in conjunction with the Waze app.

FOX 13 will have updates as soon as Digital Siren is available in our area.