FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 30, 2005
Schumer: Tragic Death Of Cab Driver Underscores Need For Major Design Overhaul On Ford Crown Victoria Taxi’s
92% of NYC Yellow Cab Fleet Are Crown Victorias: Schumer Warns Passengers and Drivers May be in Danger Until Ford Motor Company Improves Fire Safety Features
After Being Prodded by Schumer in 2003, Ford Upgraded Crown Victoria Police Cars with Necessary Safety Features, Senator Demands They do the Same for Taxi’s Free of Charge
Following the tragic death of a New York City cab driver, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the Ford Motor Company to take swift action to improve safety on Crown Victorias in NYC’s extensive taxi fleet. Earlier this week a minivan ran a red light in Queens and smashed into a taxi driven by 40-year-old Gurbaj Singh. Singh’s cab, a 2005 Ford Crown Victoria immediately burst into flames. Singh was killed in the crash. In a letter to William Clay Ford Jr., Chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company, Schumer cited persistent fire safety issues with Crown Victorias. He requested that the Ford Company make gas tank shields and foam fire suppression standard on all new commercial and personal Crown Victorias and make a concerted, consumer-friendly effort to retrofit all vehicles already in use, starting with a cost-free program for the New York City taxi fleet.
“When it comes to safety, half-way measures won't cut it – every single car needs the gas tank shields and the critical fire suppression,” Schumer said. “If there's a way to make the Crown Victoria safer, every vehicle should be upgraded without delay.”
Ford Crown Victorias, in both commercial and personal use, have continued to show major indications of an apparent design flaw that makes the fuel tank susceptible to rupture, leakage and explosion following crashes. At least 18 law enforcement officers, and double the number of civilians, have been either killed or severely burned in Crown Victorias following collisions. As a result, Schumer is urging the Ford Motor Company to standardize the gas tank shields and the critical fire suppression on all Crown Victoria lines in order to minimize the possibility more deaths and injuries.
Though it is too early to say with certainty what the exact cause of Gurbaj Singh’s death, the accident paralleled another cab driver fatality that resulted from a post-crash fire in a Crown Victoria. In October 2003, yellow cab driver Mohammed Abu Yousef was killed after his Crown Victoria cab, waiting at a red light, was rear-ended and burst into flames. “These incidents further demonstrate both a serious, and well documented, safety flaw in the Crown Victorias and an urgent need for action,” said Schumer.
Schumer called on Ford to initiate an aggressive program to retrofit all Crown Victorias and like vehicles in the NYC taxi fleet. Schumer also requested that New York City yellow taxis be first to receive the new equipment. “Given the fact that the vast majority of NYC taxi vehicles are privately owned by hard working laborers struggling to make ends meet, it is essential that Ford Motor Company, who is responsible for the design of this vehicle, should bear the brunt of the cost of installing these shields,” said Schumer.
“Mr. Singh was the epitome of the American Dream – after years of hard work, living away from his family in India, he had just received his Green Card and was planning to reunite with his loved ones. It must not be the case that there are more tragedies like this because Ford was not bold enough, and persistent enough, in response to this problem.” Schumer said.
Schumer has been the leader on Crown Victoria safety issues. In 2003, he called for immediate safety upgrades for the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI) following the death of New York State Trooper Robert Ambrose in Yonkers. Following that crash it was discovered that rubber gas tank bladders and plastic gas tank shields lower the risk of explosion if the car is involved in an accident. While Ford did not move to install rupture resistant gas tank bladders, the company did make a gas tank shield available for the CVPI's, both by retrofitting older models and making part of the police vehicle production package.
The Ford Crown Victoria is the most common model of yellow cabs, and represents 92% of the yellow cab fleet in New York City.