Updated 12/31/2008 11:15 AM
Truth about Tahoes: Part 3
The SUV that joined the fleet of New York State Police vehicles in the mid to late 90s has been redesigned by General Motors with the high speed pursuit in mind. It's the Chevy Tahoe. Some feel it's not meant for chase but one driving instructor says it's all about how you handle it. Joleene Des Rosiers explains.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
"Center of gravity is an issue when you're traveling at a high rate of speed, so certainly what we're trying to do is make sure that the officer and the trooper know at a certain speed what's going to happen and what to expect,” said Jack Keller with the State Police. “Also, there's a number of other factors that an officer is going to look at. Weather conditions, traffic volume, other people involved. So there's a number of issues that an officer, in a split second, is going to have to decide what he or she is going to do."
Brian Turner knows this. He's been teaching police officers, EMTs, and other emergency personnel how to drive their vehicles safely for over 20 years. His course is eight days long. His goal is simple.
"Theoretically, if they follow what they're taught, and they drive the vehicles how they should be driven, they will not leave the roadway, they will not collide with something else, unless something gets in their way and they have an unavoidable collision. Just as you and I drive everyday without having a collision or rolling our vehicles over,” Turner said.
New York State Police Benevolent Association President Daniel De Federicis wants to see a change in how troopers are trained. And he made that very clear in more than one letter to the governor’s office. He started his quest in 2006, the same year Central New York Trooper Craig Todeschini died after a high-speed chase and James Joshua Carncross was convicted of Todeschini's death by leading him on that chase.
Statistics from State Police headquarters in Albany show their Tahoes involved in a long list of accidents and incidents, more than 550 of them total, from January 2006 through mid-September 2008. That's everything from hitting deer, to rollovers, to hit and runs. In that time, two troopers have died behind the wheel of a Tahoe. Todeschini and Trooper Jose Rosado of Long Island, who died when his Tahoe lost control on black ice in Suffolk County in 2007.
More than a dozen Tahoes have rolled-over, two of them during the newly implemented Tahoe Training Familiarization course. All of those accidents were deemed preventable by the State Police.
Has there been any improvement since the training course started in 2007, and since the Tahoe was upgraded that same year with wider front and rear tracks, a lower center of gravity, and stiffer springs and shocks? Perhaps.
After an increase in 2007, the accident rate per month seems to be down in 2008, but it may be too soon to know for sure.
"What we need to do is take further steps and see if there needs to be more training. I mean, training, if we have these Tahoe's out there. And they're not going away anytime soon and as I pointed out, there's not a perfect vehicle out there. So each one has their strength and their weaknesses. So if we're accepting the Tahoe as a patrol vehicle and for right now, we have no choice, they're in the state fleet. We're working with the State Police to find out what are the reasons for this? Sometimes there are accidents that are, unfortunately, operator error,” said De Federicis. "So I think the answer is to address all the flaws of each vehicle and see whether it's training, whether it's additional equipment, such as on the Crown Vic, whatever it takes."
"There is no question that the New York State Police are absolutely inadequately trained to operate that vehicle in the capacity for which it was intended," said Salvatore Piemonte a defense attorney for Carncross.
We attempted to speak to Governor Paterson, but were told the fall of Wall Street and the current state of the economy were keeping the governor busy. We wanted to know if the current Tahoe Familiarization Program was enough and was he satisfied.
The Governor’s office issued the following statement, "…anyone who is currently a trooper received the Tahoe Familiarization Training. Additionally, any troopers going through the academy within the last year and in the academy going forward, will receive training with the Tahoe…”
So if the program is to be further expanded that remains to be seen.
As for James Joshua Carncross, he's appealing his conviction. All necessary briefs have been filed.
And oral arguments are scheduled for January 14.