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Hendon Publishing

Adamson’s Sentinel Rear Safety Light System

The “problem” has been with law enforcement as long as police cars have had roof lights. When the trunk lid is raised, the trunk blocks the emergency signal to the rear. At just the time the parked police car needs to put out the strongest, clearest warning to overtaking traffic, it now produces no real rear warning.

True, deck lights may be visible under the trunk with it raised. However, not all cars with roof-mounted lightbars have deck lights. And only the lights positioned at the center and mounted on the package tray can be seen. The lights mounted toward the edges or higher up on the rear window are blocked.

True, flashing or strobe taillights and flashing backup lights produce some kind of rear signal with the trunk lid up. However, the nature of the signal is not always clear. Nothing back there flashes amber, which means emergency vehicle of some kind. Nothing back there flashes red and blue, or blue and blue, which means police vehicle.

The “solution” has also been with law enforcement as long as the problem. Mount emergency lights to the bottom of the trunk lid, so they are visible when the trunk is raised. However, lollipop halogen lights have not been a good solution. They are simply too big to mount under the trunk lid. They get crushed the first time the trunk lid is closed on an overstuffed trunk. The real solution involves a system using the super-bright, ultra-compact LEDs.

Adamson Industries, famous both for upfitting police vehicles and for producing upfitting components, recently introduced its Sentinel Rear Safety Light System. The Sentinel is a pair of Gen 3 LED lights with an integral trunk white light. It “stands watch” with a clear and powerful rear emergency signal when the trunk lid is raised. The Sentinel is available for the Ford CVPI, Chevy Impala and Dodge Charger.

The Sentinel is made up of two, independent LED clusters. Each of the LEDs is available in the standard emergency colors of red, blue and amber. The Sentinel can be ordered in any combination of colors, i.e., red / blue, blue / blue. Both white and green LEDs are also available.

Each LED cluster has an internal flasher with 16 different user-selectable flash patterns. These patterns can be synchronized either X-pattern, alternating or simultaneous. They can also be put into slave mode and driven by an external flasher. The flash rates vary from 70 fpm to 350 fpm and also include “constant on,” AKA steady burn.

The Sentinel also includes an integral but separately wired white LED trunk light. Many options exist for mere trunk-mounted flashing lights. The white light LED trunk light, built right into the Sentinel, is what makes this system really stand out from the rest. Adamson intends for you to wire the Sentinel’s trunk light to the existing trunk light wires. This allows the new trunk light to operate exactly the same as the original trunk light, and it will probably be better positioned.

Lots of options exist on how to wire the Sentinel’s flashing LED emergency lights. One method is to connect these lights to the main warning system control. That way, they will come on every time the emergency lights come on. Another method is to connect the lights to the trunk light circuit. That way, they will come on every time the trunk lid is raised. A variation of this method is to wire the emergency lights to the trunk light circuit but install a manual on-off switch near the Sentinel. Adamson recommends a 5-amp inline fuse.

These lights are very simple to wire. Red is hot, black is ground and white is pattern selection. Grounding and releasing the white wire scrolls the flash pattern to the next one in the sequence. Once you have the desired flash pattern, simply insulate the white wire. Each LED light needs to have the flash pattern selected separately, and each LED has a flash pattern memory. Once the pattern has been selected, the LED will flash with that pattern each time the light is activated. Permanently grounding the white wire converts that flasher to slave mode.

Mechanically, the installation is just as easy. Four starter holes need to be drilled for the self-tapping screws. The Sentinel comes with L-brackets, screws, nuts and bolts, and an installation sketch. Be careful when drilling the pilot holes for these screws, i.e., don’t drill through any cables, and don’t drill completely through the trunk! (No, we didn’t.)

The Ford CVPI has a complicated trunk webbing and trunk lid with many cut-outs, raised ribs, and wiring looms and cables all over. The directions call for the L-brackets to hold the Sentinel to the top of the trunk. However, that is where many cars carry the Stop Sticks®. We could have mounted the Sentinel above the Stop Sticks but didn’t want to do anything that could possibly slow access to them during an emergency deployment. So, we turned the L-brackets backward from the directions and mounted the Sentinel to the top of the trunk lip with the LED lights on either side of the trunk latch.

In this location, when the trunk is lowered, the Sentinel rests on top of the trunk opening near the locking clasp, free of interfering with trunk cargo. Mounted on the underside of the trunk, the Sentinel may come into contact with cargo in an overload trunk. The idea is to mount the Sentinel as high as possible, to keep it from being damaged by trunk cargo...and in a position that allows the trunk to close!

The Sentinel produces a powerful LED police emergency signal to the rear at just the time such a warning is needed. It also includes a bright auxiliary trunk light, and it is easy to install. The Sentinel really is a good, modern solution to a very old problem.

Published in Law and Order, Aug 2008

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