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Highway Safety Officials Find No Defect in Crown Victoria Cars

March 3, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal highway officials said Thursday they have found no safety defects in Ford’s Crown Victoria police cars after an investigation prompted by complaints that included an accident that killed a Paramus, N.J., officer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will take steps, however, to ensure that police officers nationwide receive adequate training to handle high-pressure precision driving maneuvers, said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.

Lautenberg had requested the agency investigation after the Bergen County prosecutor’s office alleged that 1992 and 1993 Crown Victoria models had power steering problems during the maneuvering of high-speed chases.

Paramus Police Officer Vincent Brock died in a November 1993 accident after losing control of his patrol car, and an officer in Canada was killed several months later under similar circumstances.

The safety administration’s summary said drivers of the 1992 and 1993 models may experience a brief partial or total loss of power assistance under certain conditions such as rapid and successive changes in the direction of steering wheel rotation.

That may increase fourfold the amount of effort to turn the wheel, the summary said.

``When a group of active police officer volunteers were exposed to the steering anomaly with no prior warning of its onset, all were able to successfully maintain control of the test vehicle and traverse a prescribed road course, although not necessarily during their first test run,″ the summary said.

The administration said there was no documentation to demonstrate the alleged defect has resulted in a fatal or nonfatal police crash.

``I would have liked stronger steps taken,″ Lautenberg said, raising the prospect that a recall could have been ordered. ``NHTSA took what I consider to be a mild action given the risks law enforcement officers face daily.

``However, if this retraining program is successful, it will improve the safety conditions for thousands of police officers nationwide,″ Lautenberg said.

A Ford spokesman said the administration’s findings concurred with the company’s.

``We are pleased that NHTSA’s exhaustive investigation has rightly concluded that there is no safety defect with our police cars,″ said Robert Munson, Ford’s executive director of auto safety and engineering standards. ``Throughout this investigation, we’ve been confident that NHTSA would reach the same conclusion that we did after our own extensive investigation _ that these police vehicles are safe.″

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