By on April 30, 2018

There are many people who feel every federal agency does not require the kind of machine gun-toting SWAT teams that have proliferated in Washington over recent decades. Also, for 140 years, since the passing of the Posse Comitatus Act, Americans have thought that keeping military and police functions separate is a good idea. In recent decades, as billions of dollars worth of surplus military equipment was made available to American police agencies following the first Gulf War and subsequent military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, concern has been raised over that equipment leading to both militarization and corruption of local police and sheriff’s departments.

Still, from coagulants designed to staunch battlefield wounds to Global Positioning Satellites originally used by our military, some technologies are just too good to be restricted to being used to break stuff and kill folks. Now, a direct energy “ray gun” developed to protect military installations from car and truck bombs could have civilian uses. The device focuses microwave energy at a vehicle, overloading its electrical system and causing the Engine Control Unit to reboot over and over, disabling the vehicle. (Read More…)

By on March 3, 2018

We’re not capable of brilliance 24 hours a day. The mind demands rest, nourishment, stimulation. And old cars. Wonderful, alluring, Eisenhower-era cars.

As sleep doesn’t come easily for yours truly, you’ll often find a YouTube window open on my computer late at night. Sometimes its comedy, sometimes it’s tornado videos, and more often than not — lately, especially — it’s syndicated reruns of an old show some nice fellow uploaded to the net. It’s not a groundbreaking, award-winning show. It’s not high-minded. There’s no identity politics. Complex plotlines and witty dialogue? Get the hell outta here, pal.

No, the sole appeal of Highway Patrol (1955-1959) is the cars. (That, and identifying the scenes where: (a) actor Broderick Crawford is drunk, and (b) Crawford doesn’t have a driver’s license.)

Smog-blanketed southern California in the late Fifties. Could there be a more glamorous locale? (Read More…)

By on March 2, 2018

public domain

A bill seeking to amend Virginia’s DUI laws passed through the state Senate last month, but don’t expect the law to make it onto the books. The legislation aimed to make intoxicated driving legal if a driver performed the boozy feat on his or her own private property, with all other existing laws remaining the same.

As you might expect, this didn’t go over well with law enforcement, politicians, safety advocates, and various other concerned citizenry. (Read More…)

By on December 12, 2017

car crime theft

Florida lawmakers are pushing a new bill that would make it illegal to have your car stolen if you haven’t bothered to take the keys out of the ignition. While accidentally prepping a car for prospective thieves is easily one of the dumbest things you can do, making it illegal to leave it running while you pop in to buy a pack of gum sets us up for a nice slippery slope argument.

Last week, State Representative Wengay Newton and Senator Perry Thurston introduced matching proposals (House Bill 927 and Senate Bill 1112) that would make leaving your car unattended without stopping the engine, locking the ignition, and removing the key a second-degree misdemeanor. Under the Florida statute, the crime would be punishable with a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. (Read More…)

By on November 21, 2017

It’s one of the great scenes in modern cinema: Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness and Sean Connery as Malone, the beat cop who requires no proof of Eliot’s claim to be a Treasury Agent because, “Who would claim to be that, who was not?”

Yet there are people who falsely claim to be police, for various and nefarious purposes ranging from to getting a discount on lunch to raping 11 women. This kind of offense is punished with all possible severity, and for the most understandable of reasons: a society where we cannot easily recognize police is a society where enforcement of the law will become increasingly dangerous for all parties involved.

Then you have the crowd that doesn’t want to actually impersonate a cop; rather, they simply want to be briefly “mistaken” for a cop on the freeway, often for no reason other than the petty narcissism of believing they are frightening or impressing fellow motorists. As you’d expect, these people gravitate towards used police cars, which they often retrofit to vaguely resemble undercover or unmarked units. It’s a common enough practice that the Internet has coined a word to define the practitioner: “Wacker.” (Read More…)

By on November 20, 2017

Ford-Special-Service-Plug-In-Hybrid-Sedan, Image: Ford

If Lennie Briscoe were alive today, it’s hard to say how the fictional .38-packing NYPD detective would view this break from tradition. He might dryly wonder aloud whether the force faced an easier time cleaning up its fleet than cleaning up the streets, and went with the path of least resistance.

Nevertheless, as the era of the electric police car is already tentatively here, Ford figured it was probably a good time to give detectives, agents, and other plainclothed types their own plug-in option. The automaker has announced a plug-in hybrid version of its Fusion sedan specifically targeted at government and police.

Never has rolling up to that warehouse near the docks been accomplished with such stealth. (Read More…)

By on September 25, 2017

2017-ford-police-interceptor-utility-1lb

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you might recall the incident nearly four years ago when your humble author managed to collect a Hyundai Sonata in the B-pillar. Both I and the woman in the front passenger seat were nontrivially injured in the crash, but the months and years of pain and surgery afterwards were made considerably easier to bear by the fact that my son, who was sitting in the right rear seat, escaped injury. I cannot tell you what I would have done or how I would have felt if he had been injured or killed.

Five months ago, a woman in Albuquerque made a left-hand turn across a busy urban intersection. As she did so, her Ford Escape was struck by a police car traveling at nearly 70 miles per hour. The six-year-old boy in the right rear seat was killed.

After a comprehensive investigation, the county sheriff has recommended that no charges be filed against either the driver of the Ford Escape or the officer who struck the vehicle. Their rationale for that recommendation is easy to see and there’s no reason to Monday-morning quarterback a crash with a result this tragic. We should, however, be talking about the circumstances that made that crash not only possible but likely.

(Read More…)

By on September 20, 2017

squad car police

As far as important police work is concerned, moving violations always seem like the least-crucial activity for law enforcement to spend time on.  That’s primarily because you never see them enforcing tailgating laws but they’re Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to catching speeders — which research always seems on the fence about in terms of the actual public peril it presents.

Realistically, any major disparities between vehicle speeds on a roadway presents some added risk of collision. But, last Friday, a Canadian motorist discovered you don’t have to be going all that quick to get a ticket. Mathieu Gagne was cruising behind a slow-moving police vehicle on a two-lane road in Alberta, Canada, and decided to pass. He was immediately pulled over and issued a citation for driving less than 1 mile an hour over the posted limit. (Read More…)

By on July 5, 2017

squad car police

It’s estimated that roughly 28 people are killed every day as a result of drivers intoxicated on alcohol. In 2015, 10,265 people died in alcohol-related incidents, accounting for nearly one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities within the United States. However, the Department of Transportation shows the number of deaths associated with drunk driving trending downward since 2007. Likewise, the number of annual self-reported alcohol-impaired driving episodes recorded by the CDC have diminished to record lows in that same timeframe — and so have arrests.

Law enforcement likely played an important role. Police departments take drunk driving seriously and decades of aggressive actions have made the risks involved less than appetizing to even those whose judgement is clouded by booze. But as alcohol-related arrests have plummeted, drug-related arrests have gone up.

While much of this can be attributed to drunk drivers who decided to double-down with marijuana, drugs are estimated to be a factor in 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes where alcohol isn’t present. This has resulted in some police departments implementing special task forces designated to identify and arrest “drugged drivers.” But there is a problem — officers in Georgia have been arresting innocent people.  (Read More…)

By on March 3, 2017

Enjoy The Freedom of a Car Postcard, Image: "Free!" (CC BY 2.0) by Payton Chung

“One day in Maryland about four years ago, Carr was teaching his 16-year-old daughter how to drive when two police cars went rocketing by on the interstate, doing 80 in a 55 mph zone without lights on.” From that tiny seed — which, let’s face it, is planted about fifty thousand times a day on American roads — a great tree grew. Soldier and veteran Glen Carr now spends a significant portion of his time photographing illegally-parked police cars. It’s hard to think of a more quintessentially American thing: a man comes back from war and decides to fixate on some injustice, major or minor. It’s a story that in various forms has underpinned everything from Victorian novels to the movie Walking Tall.

What makes Carr’s jihad so engaging and admirable? Perhaps it’s the certain knowledge that he is doomed to fail. At best, he’s gonna get tired of documenting these quotidian injustices. At worst, some cop is going to shoot him dead when Carr pulls out his camera then claim he thought it was a gun. You can’t fight City Hall. Illegal vehicle operation by police officers isn’t going to stop any time soon. It might not stop until every cop car is fully autonomous. Maybe not even then. Does everybody remember the quote from Blade Runner? “If you’re not a cop, you’re little people!”

Meanwhile, for the little people in the UK, things are about to get significantly more strict.

(Read More…)

By on January 4, 2017

Ohio State Highway Patrol Charger, Image: OSHP

I remember the day I committed the minor misdemeanor offense of reckless operation as if it was yesterday, although it was actually one day longer ago than the statute of limitations regarding minor misdemeanors in Ohio. I was surrounded by my accomplices — my “gang” if you will — and we were hell-bent on committing some serious traffic offenses.

The situation was this: We were all driving through Cincinnati, Ohio, at approximately 65 miles per hour. This is the speed limit for Route 71 on the north side of Cincinnati. Approximately five miles south of I-275, the speed limit on 71 drops from 65 to 45. There’s no visible logic or reasoning behind this; I-71 is still a five-or-six-lane road at this point. There are certainly times when the road is brought to a standstill by traffic, but the same is true of I-71 between Columbus and Delaware, Ohio, which has a marked limit of 70 mph.

As I passed the speed limit sign together with my gang of approximately 20 visible vehicles — most of which were doing about 70-75 mph but a few of which were going slower or faster than that — not a single driver touched his or her brakes. In the space of a few moments, we had gone from being legal or semi-legal road users to serious violators of the Ohio Revised Code. Had there been a sufficient police presence in the area, every one of us could have been sentenced to 60 days in jail and been subject to impounding of our vehicles.

This is clearly ridiculous, so it’s time to ask the question that is always relevant in situations like this: Cui bono?

(Read More…)

By on November 5, 2016

Grappler Police Bumper

If this catches on, expect plenty of unhappiness in the spike strip industry.

An Arizona man has spent the last eight years developing a tool that could end police pursuits by ensnaring the rear wheel of a fleeing vehicle. Called the Grappler Police Bumper, the seemingly simple apparatus can be mounted to the front of a police-spec Tahoe or Explorer. (Read More…)

By on November 3, 2016

police car

Every automotive enthusiast goes through a period in their teens where they wonder just how fast a police car would be against their entirely hypothetical sports car of choice.

Well, had they known the police were just giving this information away, they wouldn’t have needed to.

(Read More…)

By on October 19, 2016

OJ Simpson chased by a fleet of LAPD BMW i3s, Image: © 2016 Kevin McCauley/The Truth About Cars

The Los Angeles Police Department loves the idea of Tesla patrol cars so much, it’s rekindling a dream it put on ice earlier this year.

The city’s coffers haven’t suddenly become flush with cash, and a previous testing cycle saw the LAPD cross the automaker off its list of potential electric vehicle suppliers. Still, it looks like the idea of a black-and-white Tesla Model S with Ludicrous Mode is just too great to pass up. (Read More…)

By on October 4, 2016

2017 Ford Police Interceptor Utility

One of the late Ford Crown Victoria’s best attributes was its unique turn signal/parking lamps, which, when viewed in a rear-view mirror, alerted savvy drivers to the possibility that there could be a police officer on their tail. Or a retiree. Either way, best to slow down, pardner.

Today, drivers don’t have that luxury of instant nighttime recognition, and police forces and suppliers are increasingly making it harder to distinguish a lurking cop car during the day. Well, Ford has now brought the stealthiness to another level. (Read More…)

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