Ford considering safety changes to police cars

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich., Aug 8 Justin Hyde writing for Reuters reported that Ford is considering modifying its Crown Victoria police cruisers after complaints from state and local governments that the vehicle is unsafe in high-speed, rear-end crashes, a Ford executive said on Thursday.

"We're developing an action plan that represents a total approach to vehicle safety," Ford safety chief Sue Cischke said in a speech at the auto industry's annual Management Briefing Seminars in northern Michigan. "We're trying to make a safe car even safer by advancing the state of the art beyond what was even thought possible."

At least 11 police officers across the United States, including three in Arizona, have died in fires after high-speed collisions involving their Crown Victorias over the past 10 years. Federal safety regulators have opened a preliminary investigation into all Crown Victorias, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Cars built between 1992 and 2001, since they share the same design.

The large rear-wheel-drive sedan has been the vehicle of choice for police departments and highway patrols nationwide, and Ford has said roughly 400,000 are in service.

The state of Arizona and local governments in New Jersey and Texas have complained publicly and in lawsuits that the placement of the Crown Victoria's fuel tank makes it prone to rupturing when the car is struck from behind at high speeds, such as when a police car stopped on the side of a highway is hit by a passing vehicle.

In June, Ford agreed to form a panel with state officials and police officers to review complaints and make suggestions within three months.

"We accept the challenge that this car is used in a very unique environment, a very challenging, high risk environment, and we're looking at ways to make it better," Cischke said.

She said Ford would like to test fuel tank liners in the Crown Victoria to see if they prevent fuel from leaking. But she added that the company that makes the liners told Ford it didn't have any to spare while it fills orders from police departments.

Cischke also said Ford had turned to other industries for ideas, including talking to helicopter builders who fortified fuel tanks against bullet punctures during the Vietnam war.

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