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.
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.
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.