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On Friday, Ford announced a program to retrofit 350,000 Crown Victoria police cars with gas tank shields in response to pressure in the wake of more than a dozen officer deaths in fiery crashes. The measures do not include civilian Crown Vics.
Three months ago, Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano and Ford Motor Company Vice President of Environmental and Safety Engineering Sue Cischke appointed company and police experts to a nine-member Blue Ribbon Panel to identify best practices and recommendations to help avoid accidents and improve officer safety during traffic patrol situations. They also created a Technical Task Force, comprised of engineers and scientists, to take an in-depth, detailed look at the vehicle and to find ways to further reduce the likelihood a Police Interceptor would experience a fuel tank puncture if involved in a high-speed, rear crash.

The task force used a variety of means to identify as many potential tank-puncture sources as possible, including studying accidents in the field, conducting hundreds of computer-aided tests, components tests, and two crash tests at 75 miles per hour.

This work led to the development of the component shielding for the Police Interceptor. The shields are for rear axle components, bolts on the differential in the center of the rear axle, and potential stress locations on the straps that hold the tank in place. Although Ford is not aware of any rear impact accidents resulting in a fire in which either the differential bolts or the tank straps punctured the tank, Ford addressed those potential tank puncture sources with shielding.

"No automaker can prevent accidents, but we’ve advanced the state of the industry by taking developmental testing to an unprecedented level," said Cischke.

Ford will provide upgrades to all Police Interceptors currently in police service at no cost. In addition, all Police Interceptors ordered by law enforcement agencies from today forward will be built with these enhancements.

The upgrades include:
-An upgrade kit for the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor package designed to help reduce the potential of fuel tank punctures in high-speed rear-end accidents by shielding key components.

-An optional trunk package designed to help police officers carry sharp-edged, heavy equipment more safely, horizontally rather than longitudinally. In some high-speed incidents, sharp and stiff or heavy objects in the trunk have been rammed forward through the trunk wall and into the back seat, potentially damaging the fuel tank and injuring rear-seat occupants. This trunk package also will include a layer of puncture-resistant material, and will be available to police by the end of the year.

-A trunk template -- or pattern -- that can be placed in the trunk to show law enforcement agencies where equipment should or should not be mounted in the trunk.

-New Web site: www.cvpi.com

 

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Some recent news on this matter.

Feds close investigation into Ford Crown Victoria police vehicles

By Nedra Pickler
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The federal government on Thursday closed its 10-month investigation into Ford Crown Victoria police cars linked to the deaths of 12 police officers without finding a defect.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the car exceeds federal standards for fuel system safety and the rate of fires was no greater than with Chevrolet Caprice police cars.

Since 1983, 12 officers have been killed when a Crown Victoria gas tank caught fire, often after being hit in the rear in a high-speed crash.

NHTSA said the car meets current federal standards that require a vehicle to withstand a rear crash at 30 miles per hour without leaking fuel. The agency also said the vehicle withstood a test at 50 miles per hour, which the agency has proposed to be the new standard.

"Clearly, we know the vehicle meets the regulation so it's great to see this has happened, but it's not a surprise," said Ford spokeswoman Sara Tatchio.

The agency opened its investigation on Nov. 27, 2001, based on reports of 17 fires that led to nine deaths. During the investigation, NHTSA found 12 additional fires leading to nine deaths, including one crash that killed three people.

NHTSA said almost all of the Crown Victoria fuel leaks occurred after a very high-speed crash and that many high-energy rear crashes did not lead to a significant fuel leak.

Ford agreed last Friday to pay for the installation of shields around the gas tanks on Crown Victoria police cars to reduce the chances the vehicles would burst into flames after a crash.

An Arizona official, speaking on condition of anonymity, has said it will cost about $50 million to retrofit the 350,000 Crown Victoria cars used by police departments nationwide — approximately 80 percent of police cars on the road in the United States.

Ford officials insisted the Crown Victoria is a safe car, and modifications to the consumer version are not necessary because most drivers don't summit their cars to the pressures that police officers do.

NHTSA said it is aware of only four fire-related rear crashes resulting in four deaths in more than 2.6 million civilian Crown Victoria cars.

NHTSA said it expects Ford's action will reduce the likelihood of fires in Crown Victoria police cars, but the fix was not a factor in its decision to close this investigation. The agency says it will continue to monitor the performance of the cars.
 
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