Ford, police officials review safety upgrade
Another cop killed when Crown Vic hit
October 24, 2002
BY BEN SCHMITT
DETROIT FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
As Ford officials gathered in Warren with local law enforcement officials to highlight new safety features on Crown Victoria Police Interceptors, Dallas police investigated a fiery car crash that left a police officer dead.
At least 13 officers across the country have died in fiery crashes in Crown Victorias since 1983 -- the most recent death at 1 a.m. Wednesday. An off-duty Dallas police officer was killed in a highway accident when a sport-utility vehicle slammed into the back of his slow-moving Crown Victoria squad car.
The crash comes three weeks after the National Highway Traffic Administration said the car exceeds federal standards for fuel system safety. The automaker also recently announced it will provide a trunk safety kit designed to prevent sharp-edged cargo from puncturing a fuel tank during a crash.
Additionally, free upgrades, shields for fuel tank straps and rear axle components, are being offered to ensure that suspensions and other car parts do not rupture the fuel tank in collisions.
Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said his department has already ordered the fuel tank upgrades. When he heard about Wednesday's crash in Dallas, he said, "Hopefully nothing happens in the interim. There's not much else we can do."
Stephanie Janiunas of Ford's commercial vehicle operations section in Allen Park, attended Wednesday's meeting at Al Long Ford on 8 Mile Road and said all parties seem to be satisfied with the solutions.
"I think the relationship will only be further strengthened because Ford Motor Co. recognizes that there was potential fear out there on behalf of the patrol officers nationwide," she said. "The Crown Vic is the police car of choice, and we would certainly like to keep it that way. I believe our relationship is still very, very strong."
Lt. David Halliday of the Michigan State Police is on the Ford Motor Co. Police Advisory Board. Despite the tragic crash in Dallas, Halliday said meetings like the one Wednesday at Al Long Ford provide a necessary exchange between rank-and-file officers and Ford executives.
In July, Ford agreed to test fuel cell bladders on Police Interceptor fuel tanks. Oregon-based Fuel Safe Systems, which makes fuel tank bladders, said it shipped 50 tanks to the Dearborn automaker Oct. 17.
Fuel cell bladders are made of a variety of puncture-proof materials such as Kevlar to help prevent leakage of fuel when a fuel tank is punctured in a severe accident. The foam-like bladder is molded to the shape of the gas tank and is encased in metal to create an extra layer of protection.
The bladders, which are mandatory in most race cars, would cost about $1,500 per unit for Crown Victorias and would have to be replaced every 10 years.
When it comes to fleet of patrol cars, Hackel said he's pretty much stuck with the Ford Crown Victoria.
Hackel's police force isn't alone. Nationally, Ford sells 85 percent of cars driven by police officers and state troopers nationwide.
Even with a near monopoly, Ford officials still are taking the time to meet with officers and outline safety upgrades.
"I think they need to do this: Make us feel comfortable," said one guest, Sgt. Melanie Tansil of the Detroit City Airport Police, part of the Detroit Police Department. "There's a concern out there about these cars and their safety."
Grosse Pointe Police Deputy Chief Dennis Van Dale agreed.
"We're here because we have concerns," he said, peering into the newly designed trunk kit. "We wanted to hear what Ford had to say. I can say that I like what I'm hearing."
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....