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Exclusive Investigation
New Details On Crowne Victoria Police Cruisers
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We have an update to an Eyewitness News Exclusive Investigation.   Tonight the Ford motor company is taken action to protect police officers driving crowne victoria
police cruisers across the country and right here in Rhode Island.
   Ford Motor Co. agreed Friday to install shields around the gas tanks on 350,000 Crown Victoria police cars
across the country after at least a dozen officers were killed in fiery crashes.  No one has been killed in accidents here, but one man sitting in the back of a Massachusetts state police car was seriously burned after the car was hit and the gas tank exploded.
   Ford's agreement to pay for the modifications and to study ways to make the cars safer came after police departments charged that the vehicles are prone to burst into flames in high-speed, rear-end crashes.
   Approximately 80 percent of police cars on the road in the United States are Ford Crown Victorias.
   Sue Cischke, vice president of engineering for Ford, said the automaker was responding to concerns raised by police nationwide.
But she maintained the Crown Victoria is a safe car.
   ``We're trying to make a safe car safer,'' Cischke said.
   Shields made of plastic and rubber will be installed on the rear axle, the differential and underneath the gas tanks. Those components have either been faulted in accidents or showed the potential to puncture the gas tank in crash tests.
   She would not say how much the modifications will cost. But a state government official speaking on condition of anonymity said it would cost about $50 million to retrofit the 350,000 Crown Victorias used by police departments nationwide.
   ``This is a significant step forward in the safety of the Crown Victoria,'' said Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano, who has been pressing Ford to make the cars safer.
   Three Arizona police officers died in fiery Crown Victoria crashes.
   Cischke said the retrofit kits should start arriving at Ford dealerships by the end of next month, and all the shields should be installed by January.
   She said the same modifications will not be made to the consumer version of the Crown Victoria, though drivers will be able to buy retrofit kits if they want them.
   (Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)
    APTV-09-27-02 1619EDT<

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