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Published: Sunday, 8/10/2003

Troopers hope cars' paint job arrests attention of drivers

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Highway Patrol troopers Ryan Stewart and Ron Anderson are beside a new white patrol car. Highway Patrol troopers Ryan Stewart and Ron Anderson are beside a new white patrol car.
KEESE / BLADE Enlarge

The state's new highway patrol cars don't glow in the dark, but their paint makeover hopefully will give troopers better visibility on the roadway.

The Ohio Highway Patrol started phasing out its charcoal gray Ford Crown Victoria cars in December, 2002, which had been the standard since 1992, and replacing them with all-white models.

A rash of accidents in which troopers were struck during traffic stops, including the November, 2001, death of Trooper Frank Vasquez, is the reason for the new look.

Sgt. Rick Zwayer, a spokesman for the patrol in Columbus, said the color scheme was designed in hopes that motorists will spot the cruisers more easily.

“It is simply a safety reason. We believe the white cars are more visible to the motorists when troopers are driving on the roadway and while they are stopped with other vehicles,” Sergeant Zwayer said.

“There have been some fatal accidents throughout the history of the patrol. More of our officers have been killed in traffic-related accidents than any other reason,” he said.

Trooper Vasquez was the second trooper killed in less than three years. The 26-year-old Defiance native was struck by a drunken driver while working special duty on I-270 in Columbus.

Trooper Robert Perez, Jr., of the Milan post was killed in May, 2000, when his patrol cruiser was struck from behind by a minivan that drove off the Ohio Turnpike near the U.S. 250 exit in Erie County.

So far, 220 of the patrol's fleet of 1,250 cruisers have been replaced with the white models. Sergeant Zwayer said the models should be completely switched over in about three years.

Cars are replaced on a regular basis when the odometer hits between 80,000 and 100,000 miles, officials said. It is part of the patrol's overall maintenance program, with no added costs.

The patrol adopted the charcoal gray scheme in 1992 in conjunction with its 50th anniversary. Sometime in the 1970s the patrol changed from white to silver, Sergeant Zwayer said.

The patrol's new white cruiser is being displayed at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus. The vehicle was also put on display at auto shows in Cleveland and Columbus earlier this year.

Lt. George J. Jutze, commander of the patrol post on Airport Highway in western Lucas County, said the models were outfitted with extra lights to catch motorists' attention.

“The troopers at the post are getting used to the new color. But personally, I still like the old silver cars we used to drive years ago,” Lieutenant Jutze said.

The Sylvania Police Department has stuck with the traditional black-and-white scheme for its police cars for at least 20 years, Capt. Bill Rhodus said. “We are very happy with black-and-white police cars,” Captain Rhodus said.

The color change in Ohio's highway patrol cruisers was news to Lt. Gary Nix of the Michigan State Police headquarters in East Lansing, Mich.

“Yuck. I kind of like the [charcoal-gray] color. They are very sharp.”

Lieutenant Nix said the Michigan State Police cruisers have been royal blue since 1955. He said his agency acknowledges the danger that troopers are placed in during traffic stops on highways.

“In our history we have had more troopers killed in highway accidents than by guns. It is a great hazard of the job. But I am not sure there is a magic cure-all color scheme that will stop people from running into you,” Lieutenant Nix said.



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