Letter to NHTSA Administrator Runge from Senator Charles Schumer

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

May 28, 2003

Dr. Jeffrey Runge
National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Administrator Runge:

I am writing to request that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) open a comprehensive investigation into possible structural defects that cause the Ford Crown Victoria to explode upon rear-end impact despite recent safety upgrades.

As one of the nation’s most popular cars, any potential design flaws in the Crown Victoria that may cause dangerous accidents concerns us all. Tens of thousands of civilian vehicles, including models of the Mercury Grand Marquis and the four-door model of the Lincoln Town Car, share the Crown Victoria’s design, and the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI) is the most common vehicle used by law enforcement agencies nationwide. In New York State alone, the CVPI comprises over 80% of the State Police’s cruiser fleet.

Tragically, at least fifteen police officers have been killed in CVPI rear-end collisions since 1983, with more than double that number being burned or injured over the same period. To put the problem in perspective, there have been more people killed in Crown Victoria fires than were killed in the notorious Ford Pinto fires over twenty year ago.

The CVPI’s accident track record led to an NHTSA probe in 2002 and eventual nationwide retro-fit for the police car by Ford Motor Company. Upon police department request, Ford offered to provide safety shields for each car in order to protect the gasoline tank in the event of a rear-end collision. Unfortunately, it appears that this innovation has not resolved the explosion problem. Just last month, at least three retro-fitted CVPI’s exploded in separate rear-end collision incidents in Washington, DC, Dallas and just outside of Kansas City.

Our country’s emerging homeland security strategy places a heavy burden on first responders as the country’s main line of defense. In order to effectively discharge this duty, it is essential that law enforcement personnel feel secure in the equipment they use. I strongly urge you to open a comprehensive investigation into the Crown Victoria’s retrofitted design so that the CVPI’s continuing rear-collision problems may be quickly resolved.

Charles Schumer
U.S. Senator