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Summary: Crown Victoria Investigation October 2002

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Ford Crown Victoria

Summary: Crown Victoria Investigation October 2002

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
October 3, 2002

Thursday, October 3, 2002 Contact: Rae Tyson Tel. No. (202) 366-9550

Background: The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened an investigation into fuel leaks following rear impact crashes in MY 1992-2001 Ford Crown Victoria, Lincoln Town Car and Mercury Marquis vehicles on November 27, 2001. The investigation (Service Query 01-014) was opened following reports from several law enforcement organizations regarding the potential for fuel leaks and fires in Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI) vehicles following rear impact crashes and in response to a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) that was issued by Ford Motor Company (Ford) on October 22, 2001, in which it recommended two actions to reduce the likelihood of post-crash fuel leaks resulting from what Ford described as "extremely high-speed rear impacts."

At the time the investigation was opened, ODI was aware of reports alleging 17 post-crash fires in CVPI vehicles (14 within the scope of Ford's TSB), which had led to 9 deaths. During the investigation, ODI identified 12 additional post-crash fires in the subject vehicles. There are 9 deaths resulting from these additional crashes although one crash involved 3 fatalities.

The Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor vehicle currently is the overwhelming vehicle of choice for police duty. The vehicle is a real-wheel drive, full-sized sedan, and police departments have typically selected rear-wheel drive, full-sized sedans for performance, interior space, and robustness. The only other vehicle that had been available for this type of service in recent years was the Chevrolet Caprice; and GM stopped producing this platform after MY 1996.

ODI is aware of only 4 fire-related rear crashes resulting in four deaths in the over 2.6 million civilian vehicles covered by the investigation in the ten years in which they have been on the road. Similarly, ODI is aware of only 2 fire-related rear crashes in over 1.4 million non-police Chevrolet Caprice vehicles. Therefore, ODI's investigation focused on the CPVI vehicles.

Based on its analysis of the information obtained during its investigation, ODI made the following findings:

The subject vehicles meet current Federal motor vehicle safety standard for fuel system integrity (FMVSS No. 301), which requires a vehicle to withstand a 30 mph rear collision without fuel spillage in excess of established limits. NHTSA has proposed to amend FMVSS No. 301 to require a 50 mph rear impact; however, Ford has conducted tests in which the vehicles' fuel system did not leak in 50 mph rear impact tests.
Almost all of the post-crash fuel leaks occurred in very high-speed incidents, with crash energies far in excess of those generated by FMVSS No. 301 tests.
There is no single factor that contributed to the post-crash fuel leaks in the CPVI vehicles. In addition to the components identified in the Ford TSB, leaks were also caused by a deformed frame rail, shock absorber supports, the differential cover, and stowed items in the trunk.
There have been numerous high-energy rear crashes in CVPI vehicles with little or no loss of fuel.
Based on an analysis of FARS data, the risk of fire per fatal rear crash in the CPVI vehicles was comparable to that of Chevrolet Caprice police vehicles. A study conducted by the Florida Highway Patrol reached similar conclusions.

Based on these findings, ODI has closed the investigation. However, it will continue to monitor the performance of these vehicles.

NHTSA has reviewed Ford's recent announcement that it will provide an upgrade kit for CVPI police vehicles at no cost and has designed a new optional trunk package for these vehicles. While NHTSA believes that these actions can be expected to reduce the likelihood of post rear crash fires in CVPI vehicles, they were not a factor in NHTSA's decision to close this investigation.

NHTSA will continue to monitor efforts by Ford and representatives of the Arizona law enforcement community to examine vehicle design issues and police practices and procedures relating to vehicle stops in an effort to reduce the potential for future post-crash fires.

NHTSA has also invited the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) to form a joint panel to look at broader issues, including the role of emergency vehicle lighting configurations and their effect on crashes, the impact of after-market equipment placement on officer safety, and the positioning of police vehicles during traffic stops.

The text of the closing report is available from NHTSA's website at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/studies/crownvic/index.html

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