Anti-lock brakes don't cut accidents

April 24, 1994|By Jim Haner | Jim Haner,Sun Staff Writer

One of the main selling points when the Baltimore Police Department decided to buy the Ford Taurus was its anti-lock brake system. At a time when young officers were wrecking patrol cars at a record rate, then-Commissioner Edward V. Woods predicted that the improved brakes would cut down on accidents.

They didn't.

With the Taurus, the department has continued a troubling three-year trend of increasing collisions -- from 219 in 1990 to 250 in 1993 -- that has kept pace with the increasing number of rookie officers entering the force.

Last year, officers with less than three years' experience were responsible for 56 percent of the department's preventable crashes. They wrecked Tauruses just as frequently as they did the department's older Chevrolet Caprices, which use standard brakes.

Officer Paul K. Lamond, who tracks the department's crashes, said one reason is that younger officers -- whose limited driving experience makes them accident-prone in the first place -- have managed to defeat the Taurus' improved braking system.

"We hear it all the time," he said. "They tell us, 'I hit the brakes and the pedal started wobbling under my foot, so I tried them again. And again and again. Then I hit that tree.' "

Joy Wolfe of Ford Motor Co. Customer Service Division said the wobbling pedal is caused by the brakes surging on and off to prevent the car from skidding.

"That's exactly how they're supposed to work," she said. "When you start pumping them with your foot, well, it takes longer to stop. Somebody needs to tell the officers that."

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