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
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.
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.
trunk template – or pattern – that can be placed in the trunk to
show law enforcement agencies where equipment should or should not
new web site at www.cvpi.com
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.com.
Second, 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.
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.
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