ARE TROOPER SUVs SAFE?
Troopers Amanda Anna and Craig Todeschini had a few things in common.
They both spent part of their careers working out of S.P. Hastings. They both called Syracuse home.
And they both died on duty behind the wheel of a Tahoe.
In paired tragedies six years apart, these two fine people from one community died in alarmingly similar circumstances. There was a U-turn, there was a pursuit, there was a one-vehicle wreck.
And a trooper died.
In a Chevy Tahoe.
Trooper Todeschini, who left a wife and an unborn child, died in 2006. Trooper Anna, with a 4-year-old daughter and a fiancé, was buried last Friday.
In the wake of Trooper Todeschini’s death, the State Police revamped its emergency-driving training and taught troopers specifically about the risks of the Tahoe’s high center of gravity and how to handle the vehicle under the rigors of police duty.
In the wake of Trooper Anna’s death, the State Police must again affirm that its equipment and training are adequate. It must be certain that it is doing everything it can to keep New York’s state troopers as safe as their innately dangerous duty allows.
There may be no problem.
These tragedies may just be coincidences.
They may have had nothing to do with the vehicle. They may have been caused by road conditions or driver error.
But there is an obligation to be certain. The troopers and the people of the state must be assured.
One of the questions that must be answered is what model year Tahoe Trooper Anna was driving. That’s because of inclusion of Chevrolet’s StabiliTrak system on some police-package Tahoes beginning in late 2010. It was an option on all police Tahoes in 2011 and became a federally mandated feature on the 2012 models.
The same electronic stabilization system has been available on civilian Tahoes since 2003.
Three years before Craig Todeschini died.
Various factors caused the delay in offering StabiliTrak on police Tahoes, but the impact was to render the vehicles less safe for the officers who drove them.
It is important to know if Trooper Anna was driving a Tahoe with or without StabiliTrak.
If the vehicle lacked the stabilization system, someone should answer for why such a vehicle was in the fleet. If the vehicle had the stabilization system, then someone should determine if its protections are adequate.
This is not to indict the vehicle.
An SUV is exceptionally useful for some police duties. Off road, back road, snowy road – it can’t be beat. But at high speed, or on tight corners and turns, its relatively high center of gravity makes it relatively unstable.
The traditional American police car – the now-retired Ford Crown Victoria – is low and heavy, and almost can’t be flipped on pavement. It, however, lacks the SUV’s abilities in bad weather and on rough surfaces.
No vehicle can suit all purposes, and the perfect tool in one instance can have serious limitations in the next.
SUVs like the Tahoe are wonderful vehicles, and safety can never be guaranteed. But the continual striving for enhanced officer safety must be a never-ending process.
And if anything can be learned from these tragedies, it must. For the sake of the memory of these two troopers, and for the sake of the safety of their fellow troopers.
We must know if these vehicles are safe.
We must know if there are ways training can be improved.
These questions must be answered, and they must be answered publicly.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2012