Their mission's in the name, the Department of Public Safety patrols the roads to keep you safe. But are troopers behind the wheel of Crown Victorias at increased risk amid allegations a high speed rear crash could rupture the fuel tank?
"It doesn't take more than a spark if the gas tank is ruptured to cause a gas tank explosion and I don't know if that could necessarily be avoided in any vehicle when we are talking about a high speed," says Capt. Mark Kennedy with DPS.
Trooper safety is a priority at Tyler DPS. That's why they've already taken action grinding the small "U brackets" near the fuel tank that could puncture and cause an explosion. The Smith County Sheriff's Department splits their fleet with Crown Vics and Chevy Impalas. Sheriff Smith says until 2000, the Ford Police Interceptor was their only choice, though he hasn't been disappointed in its performance. The Crown Vic's been sturdy, reliable and safe for his deputies.
"We have had a couple of wrecks where the rear end of the car has been hit and we haven't had any problems at all, but it wasn't a high speed impact," says Sheriff J.B. Smith.
George Baker manages Tyler PD's fleet. He says Ford subjects their police cars to 50 mile an hour car to car rear crash tests. That's compared to the government's 30 mile an hour tests.
"So you can see the fuel tank is in front of the trunk so before a collision gets to a fuel tank, the rear bumper has to collapse the trunk section has to collapse," says George Baker, Tyler Fleet Administrator. And only then it would get to the fuel tank. Still, none of the departments oppose putting Crown Vics under the microscope if it means more safety for officers.