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Ford Crown Victoria Rear End Crashes

Written by Ed Sanow

You can do four positive things, right now, to reduce the risks involved with a rear end collision for police officers driving the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI).

First, perform the modifications on the Ford Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) 01-21-14. Surprisingly, just 22% of the departments have made these changes. Replace the parking brake cable bracket bolt on the 1992–1997 CVPIs. Grind down a tab on the rear sway bar brackets on the 1992–2001 CVPIs.

In 50 rear end crash tests performed by Ford, no vehicle component ever punctured the gas tank. So much variability exists in high-speed accidents that the puncture mechanisms are not repeatable in testing. However, in high-speed crashes involving in-service CVPIs, the components in the TSB were identified as a puncture source.

Second, check the trunk of your patrol cars for high-risk trunk contents. In one-third of the CVPI cases involving a fire, the gas tank was punctured by vehicle components. In one-third of the cases, the tank was punctured by contents in the trunk being pushed forward through the trunk into the tank. In the rest of the cases, both trunk contents and vehicle components were the puncture mechanism.

High-risk items include large floor jacks, star wrenches and other non-compressible or sharp items, which may include fire extinguishers. Double check radio and in-car video mounting systems for long bolts extending farther than needed. Watch which way you point the spike end of the traffic flares and do not remove the flare caps ahead of time.

If high-risk items must be carried in the trunk, position them perpendicular to the direction of travel. Just 17% of the departments have made these simple changes.

As recently as November 6, a Torrance, CA, CVPI caught fire after a 40mph rear end collision caused a 24-inch wrecking bar from the search and rescue kit to puncture the gas tank. Go to www.cvpi.com to check out the new PI Trunk Pack, complete with Kevlar® barrier on the front of the organizer, available in early 2003.

Third, again, go to www.cvpi.com to register for the Police Interceptor Package Upgrade, which includes shields for rear axle components, differential bolts and fuel tank straps.

Fourth, on the same Web site, fill out the Best Practices Survey being conducted by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Ford’s Blue Ribbon Panel is researching patrol tactics and traffic stop procedures— offset, angled nose-in, angled nose-out. Ford is running Finite Element Analysis crash modeling on all three options. This may end up being a balance of officer safety threats from both the front (stopped motorist) and the rear (approaching vehicle).

They are also researching lighting, marking and other conspicuity issues. A less conspicuous patrol car parked by the road may be at a lower risk of a rear collision than a highly conspicuous one. It could also be just the opposite. They are looking at police cars using every combination of light design (halogen, strobe, LED) and light color (red, blue, amber).

The panel is also looking into injury producing rear crashes to identify who is causing these accidents: who the target population is. The counter-measures against a drowsy driver may be different from those for an impaired driver or a distracted driver.

Elsewhere in this issue you will read about the NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigation (ODI) study of the Ford CVPI. Opened in November 2001 and closed in October 2002, the ODI found the risk of fire per fatal rear crash in the Ford CVPI is comparable to the Chevrolet Caprice.

Let’s focus on the real problem. It is not the CVPI. Instead, the solution lies with changes to vehicle markings, emergency lighting and vehicle stops tactics. The solution to the cause, aftermath and eventual prevention of the rear crashes is a long process. It involves all of us.

Contact Ed Sanow, Editorial Director, via e-mail at esanow@hendonpub.com

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jan/Feb 2002

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