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September 13, 2010
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Travis Yates Police Driving:
Safety Behind the Wheel

with Travis Yates

Testing the newest police vehicles

With the newest police vehicles now being examined by EVOC experts, the big auto makers prove that 'if you test them, they will come'

It’s that time of year again. The smell of autumn is in the air, professional and college football seasons have begun, the kids are back in school, baseball pennant races are in full swing (although the Cubs will still not win a World Series), and it is once again time to test the new police cars.

The excitement is especially high this year as several new vehicles are making their first appearance at the testing including the new Dodge Charger, Chevrolet Caprice and the Ford Interceptor. The Kawasaki Concours will make its debut with the motorcycle testing that occurs at the same time.

Michigan State Police Testing
If there had to be a single state that conducted the tests each year, it would make perfect sense for it to be in Michigan. With the location of the “Big Three” American auto manufacturers close by, and with stories of Michigan’s Finest taking a sneak peek of what is to come behind the secrecy of the proving grounds, there is a reason why this year marks the 36th year of police vehicle testing by the Michigan State Police.

The Michigan State Police Precision Driving Unit will be conducting the testing from September 18-20 with the testing opened to the public and conducted in three locations. The top speed, acceleration and braking will be conducted at the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan. The vehicle dynamics or high speed handling evaluation will be conducted at the Grattan Raceway in Belding, Michigan with the motorcycle dynamics testing being conducted at the State Police Training Facility.

Several categories will be evaluated, scored and ultimately published for agencies across the world to use in their evaluation of which vehicle(s) to purchase in 2011. If you want to attend this years testing, you can but you will need an invitation from the Michigan State Police which you can obtain from Lt. Keith Wilson.

Los Angeles County Sheriffs Testing
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has been testing vehicles for law enforcement since 1974 and Sergeant Dave Hontz supervises the Emergency Vehicle Operations Training with the agency. Hontz explains that “it really comes down to department preference with the two big players being Chevy and Ford in regards to the major changes.”

Hontz, a true leader in the EVOC community, has seen what is coming and he expects some surprises once the vehicles are tested. “We are going to see some neat things.”

The testing of the 2011 police package vehicles will take place November 18th at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California with the Pursuit Testing occurring at the Los Angeles County EVOC Facility. The testing is open to the public and is done in conjunction with the COPSWEST Expo.

The New Kids In Town
According to Michigan State Police Lieutenant Keith Wilson, this year will be business as usual with the exception of what is new and this year marks a milestone in regards to out with the old and in with the new.

2011 Ford Interceptor
The new Taurus-based Ford Interceptor expects to bring a wild ride to this years testing and it will be summed up in one word: Acceleration. While the Crown Vic offered 250 horsepower from the 4.6L V8, the new Police Interceptor brings the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 to the party with a whooping 365 horsepower. That will certainly be evident as the ride of the notorious “rolling” Crown Vic will be replaced with its younger relative that sports an all-wheel drive system.

2011 Chevrolet Caprice
Acceleration will be a pattern as Chevrolet brings the all new Chevrolet Caprice to law enforcement in 2011. A sub six second acceleration (0-60 mph) is expected in the powerful 6.0 V8 and options are the key for this new kid on the block. Global Chevrolet Brand Vice President, Brent Dewar, states that “the Caprice PPV gives agencies a greater range of choices for police and special service vehicles that are all available from Chevrolet."

With seats designed specifically for the officer’s equipment, comfort is the key and the ergonomics report from both Michigan and Los Angeles will certainly give us an insight to which vehicle will serve as a comfortable office for America’s Finest.

Dodge Charger Pursuit
The Charger entered the law enforcement market in 2006 and things have not been right since. More than one officer has been asked “are you driving a Hemi” since Dodge turned the heat up on the other manufacturers and in 2011, they continue to pour it on.
“Smooth” will be the key ingredient with a redesigned front and rear multi-link suspension and their Police Advisory Board has been integral in the addition of a mobile-command interior which features easier equipment integration along with police-duty front seats, column-mounted automatic transmission and LED interior lighting for night-vision equipment.

Kawasaki Concours
There is something for everyone this year, including for those that wear high leather boots and riding pants. Out of the game since 2005, Kawasaki returns to the police market with its 150-horsepower Concours 14 motorcycle. The Concours 14 hopes to set itself apart with safety features that will include a low tire pressure alert, traction control, and anti-lock brakes.

In with the New
With a three decade tradition, the annual police vehicle testing often comes and goes without much notice but this year will be different. Old models are going to the graveyard while new cars are being born to take law enforcement well into the future. With new comforts, additional safety features and improved fuel economy, the change will be noticed and we get our first glimpse in just a few weeks.

About the author

Captain Travis Yates commands the Precision Driver Training Unit with the Tulsa, Okla. Police Department. He is a nationally recognized driving instructor and a certified instructor in tire deflation devices and the pursuit intervention technique. Capt. Yates has a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Northeastern State University and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the owner of www.policedriving.com, a website dedicated to law enforcement driving issues and the Director of Ten-Four Ministries, dedicated to providing practical and spiritual support to the law enforcement community. You may contact Travis at Policedriving@yahoo.com.

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