Arizona police departments will have up to $500,000 to install fire-prevention materials in Ford Crown Victoria patrol cars, whose fuel systems have contributed to the fiery deaths of three local lawmen since 1998, reports the Arizona Republic. The money will come from DUI fines. In the past decade, at least 19 police officers nationwide burned to death when their Crown Victoria patrol cars ignited and erupted into flames in rear-end collisions.
Jason Schechterle, a former Phoenix police detective who retired in 2006, was critically burned in March 2001 when his patrol car was rear-ended by a speeding taxi and burst into flames. After his crash, police agencies and safety experts blamed the fuel-tank design and lobbied to make the cars safer. The Phoenix Police Department in 2003 installed shields over fuel tanks to minimize the possibility of a rupture. The panels, created by Scottsdale-based Firetrace, absorb impact in a crash and release a powder that prevents ignition. The company knows of 25 incidents across the U.S. in which a patrol car was rear-ended but did not ignite as a result of the fuel-tank panel. About 2,500 such panels are in use nationwide.