Since a Missouri state trooper died in a fiery wreck last month, critics of the Ford Crown Victoria have redoubled their efforts to demand more safety measures in the vehicle, the Kansas City Star says. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), citing the Missouri crash, has requested that a federal agency reopen its safety investigation into the Crown Victoria’s design. After two fiery wrecks since October, Dallas stopped buying the police vehicle.
Critics say the design of Crown Victorias, which locates the gas tank behind the rear axle, makes it vulnerable to fire when hit from the rear — a particular problem for police whose vehicles frequently stop on roadways. To address the concerns, Ford modified its 2003 Crown Victorias with gas tank shields and offered the shields for older models. But the company maintains that earlier models were safe and the fires were flukes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 18 officers died after their Crown Victorias caught fire during crashes from 1983 to 2002.
The Crown Victoria it is used by 85 percent of the nation’s law enforcement departments. The vehicle’s low price is the main reason that it dominates the police vehicle market, said Lee’s Summit, Mo., police spokesman Mike Childs.
Two weeks ago a Dallas police cruiser erupted in flames after it was rear-ended by a pickup truck, even though the cruiser was equipped with a shield. Last week, the city announced it would buy no more Crown Victorias because of safety concerns.
The 2003 Crown Victoria that Trooper Micheal Newton of Higginsville, Mo., was driving was equipped with a shield. The crash occurred after Newton stopped a motorist for a traffic violation. As Newton and the motorist chatted inside the patrol vehicle, a one-ton pickup truck, pulling a flat-bed trailer, barreled into them. Newton’s passenger survived the fire with critical burns on 40 percent of his body. Witnesses pulled him out through the window, but Newton didn’t get out.