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What  is  the  Problem?

Addition to Original Report dated December 22, 2002

Another Officer Lost in Ford Crown Victoria Collision

       It happened again.  On Friday, December 20, 2002 New York State Trooper Robert Ambrose, 31, lost his life in a Ford Crown Victoria, Police Interceptor.  While the investigation is continuing, witnesses reportedly saw the Trooper frantically trying to escape from the burning vehicle.  That last sentence was as horrible to write as it is to read.  The Trooper was apparently doing paperwork on the shoulder of a highway when his vehicle was struck from behind.


       Okay, enough is enough.  Ford has upgrades which, according to them, will correct the problem.  Agency administrators, if you haven't already, you need to get these upgrades ASAP.  For agencies that are dragging their feet, unions must apply pressure.  The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a report this past October which basically gave the Crown Victoria a clean bill of health.  I don't know nearly enough about cars to dispute the report, but officers continue to die.  They continue to burn to death.  Below is the original report on this issue.  Please read it.  It also contains links to information of how to obtain the upgrades from Ford.  



Original Report


       In recent weeks and even years there has been a lot of talk about the safety of the Crown Vic. While Ford Motor Company declares the vehicle to be as safe as its other models, more and more law enforcement agencies are beginning to steer away from adding them to their fleet.

       First, what exactly is the problem? Ford introduced the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI) in 1978. The first recorded law enforcement death relating to fire was in 1981 when an officer from the Dearborn, Michigan Police Department died in an accident. This occurred with the Ford LTD which at the time used the same platform as the Crown Victoria. Fire events began occurring more frequently beginning in 1992 with the death of a Fayetteville, Tennessee officer.

       In a report dated October, 2002 released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the following statistics were given:  "At the time the investigation was opened [November, 2001], ODI was aware of reports alleging 17 post-crash fires in CVPI vehicles (14 within the scope of Ford's TSB), which had led to 9 deaths. During the investigation, ODI identified 12 additional post-crash fires in the subject vehicles. There are 9 deaths resulting from these additional crashes although one crash involved 3 fatalities.”

       We were unable to determine the exact number of officer deaths since the statistics above were contrary to other sources we located, but it should be safe to say that between thirteen and eighteen law enforcement officers died between 1992 and November 1st of 2002.  They didn't just died.  They burned to death.  These figures do not include others who have been seriously injured and even maimed as a result of fiery collisions.

       Okay, so what exactly is the problem?  Well, in the 1992 to 2001 model years, Ford situated the vehicle’s gas tank between the rear axle and the rear bumper. This apparently made the gas tank vulnerable to rupture during high speed rear impact. Additionally, there is a bolt mounted on the rear axle which can puncture the gas tank when the vehicle is struck from behind. Critics maintain that one or a combination of these factors are what has led to the post-impact fires.

       Law enforcement agencies have been pressuring Ford Motor Company for years to address problem, but Ford refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing or do anything to correct the problem maintaining that any vehicle involved in a high speed rear-end crash was vulnerable to gas tank rupture and fire.

       Eventually Florida, Texas, and Arizona refused to purchase any more CVPI’s until the problem was rectified. They were soon joined by other states and various agencies. Also, lawsuits and bad publicity continued to emerge from the accidents and deaths.

       In November of 2001 the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation which lasted for approximately eleven months. In October of 2002 the results were released. The investigation concluded, “Based on an analysis of [] data, the risk of fire per fatal rear crash in the CPVI vehicles was comparable to that of Chevrolet Caprice police vehicles.  A study conducted by the Florida Highway Patrol reached similar conclusions. ... Based on these findings, ODI has closed the investigation. However, it will continue to monitor the performance of these vehicles.”

       In essence, Ford was exonerated. However, this investigation has been unable to silence critics. On September 27, 2002 Ford issued a press release in which they announced a 4 point plan designed to satisfy all involved:

  • 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 truck 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. 

  • 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.

  • A new web site at to strengthen the lines of communication with law enforcement.

       So, is there a problem or not? It seems there is. First, “The Crown Victoria is the only car on the market certified for “police pursuit” that has its fuel tank located behind the rear axle," according to Safetyforum.comSecond, statistics seem to suggest a much higher fatality rate for rear-end collisions when compared to other vehicles. Despite being cleared by NHTSA, in an earlier deposition Ford admitted to such higher rates. Ford’s Chief Design Analyst Brian Geraghty was asked in this deposition, “if you look at the rate of fatalities in rear end collisions, the Crown Victoria is among the worst, isn't that true?"  “The data would show that, yes." Later in the same deposition Geraghty said that the numbers weren’t valid, but there was no explanation for the contradiction.  

       In any event, agencies with CVPI's in their fleet should immediately contact Ford in order to get the modifications.  

       Most of this article was about the deaths resulting from the fires. We couldn’t find verifiable statistics for the injuries. We’ll leave you with one such injury.



Officer Jason Schechterle

before the accident

Officer Jason Schechterle

 after the accident



       On March 26, 2001 at about 11:21 p.m. Phoenix Arizona Officer Jason Schechterle was rear-ended by a taxi cab. The car, a CVPI, exploded into flames which shot more than 20 feet into the air. By the grace of God, and the heroics of firefighters and police officers, Jason lived. Probably the only good thing to come out of this incident is Jason himself. He has taken on the job as spokesman for the cause and has devoted himself to protecting other officers from his fate. Since his accident, Jason has spoken to school children, lobbied for other officers, and carried the Olympic Torch. He is the epitome of class and is almost Saintly in his selfless efforts. In doing this article I read a lot about him. “Saintly,” is not an over-exaggeration. There will be more to come about Jason Schechterle.



It is extremely important that agencies contact Ford for upgrades to Police Interceptors currently in service.  Click here for the Ford Press Release and upgrade procedures.  Also, click here for Ford's newly created Crown Victoria Police Interceptor Law Enforcement Website. 



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