Deploying stingers against motorcycles is using ‘deadly force’ according to manufacturer

The maker of a tyre deflation device used by UK police forces considers stinger use against motorcycles to represent ‘deadly force’.

Federal Signal, the US makers of the Stinger tyre deflation device used by many police forces to disable speeding or dangerous vehicles, claim the use of their product against motorcycles should be considered as ‘deadly force’ and brings into question use of the devices in the UK.

A training manual on the manufacturer’s website makes it clear that “Stinger Spike Systems are designed to work on all types of vehicles, including cars, tractor-trailer rigs and city buses. However, the deployment of the system on two-wheel vehicles is not recommended unless the use of deadly force can be legally justified.”


The news was brought to our attention by Biker & Bike reader Seanie Ruttledge, commenting on our Facebook page on the recent use of a stinger device by Essex Police. “Stinger was designed to stop four or more wheeled vehicles,” he said. “Tests of stingers on motorcycles highlight the risk that many riders brake and lay their bike down upon seeing the deployment and then roll over the 180 razor-sharp, hollow spikes, potentially bleeding to death.”

This echoes the point Biker & Bike made in a blog post following an incident at the Southend Shakedown during the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. In the incident, a stinger was deployed in front of a group of filtering motorcyclists and was believed to be an attempt to stop unruly riding by a small number of bikes and quads bike attending the event. We questioned the double standards of police not chasing criminals for fear of injuring them, yet being prepared to put ordinary bikers at risk of injury by using stinger devices.

Seanie went on to say, “Stinger is a tool designed to end a dangerous high-speed car pursuit. It’s authorisation to halt allegedly “anti-social” motorcyclists is massively disproportionate and unlawful.” He also pointed out that on average 50 police officers a year are injured by stinger devices during their deployment.

In the light of the news that the device’s manufacturer considers their use to be deadly against motorcycles, a possible legal objection to their use may now be possible. If a biker were to be seriously injured, or worse, police forces might be liable to legal action by the riders or families representing them.


Will this change policy?

We approached Essex Police to understand if the device manufacturer’s advice will affect future authorisation of the use of a stinger against a motorcycle rider.

They responded with: “Essex Police is committed to supporting motorcyclists enjoy riding safely and legally and with consideration for other road users. As part of the Safer Essex Roads Partnership, we run and subsidise the cost of BikeSafe, a project for cycle safety run for the sole objective of reducing motorcycle casualties.

“Nine motorcyclists died on Essex roads in 2017, with police attending the scene and providing first aid or comforting family members. Our duty of care is something we take absolutely seriously.

“The College of Policing policy on use of tactical options on motorcycles and quads states: “The use of… tyre deflation devices may be proportionate and necessary to mitigate risk to the public, officers and subjects. It is accepted that the pre-emptive use of tactics carries some risk to rider(s), however, this risk is likely to be significantly lower than allowing the vehicle to be driven at speeds to avoid capture, regardless of the intention of the police to engage in a pursuit.”


The response continued with, “Essex Police complies with the national authorised professional practice on use of hollow spike tyre deflation devices for use as a tactical alternative to protracted vehicle pursuits and officers must give due regard to that national practice when deciding to deploy a device against motorcycles and quad bikes. The National Decision Making Model must be used as the basis for considering proportionality and justification, taking into account all of the prevailing circumstances including the risks to other road users.

The device can only be used by authorised staff who have received training in the device.”

So we would take that as meaning the police will continue to use stinger devices against motorcyclists. This is despite knowing that the manufacturer has strongly suggested that the devices can cause a risk of death when used against two-wheeled vehicles.

Get yourself sorted:
Understand why, even before the ‘deadly force’ advice came to light, we consider the use of stingers against motorcyclists to be dangerous.


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