A police officer falls asleep in his Ford Explorer cruiser and rear-ends another car. Thatâ€™s a pretty frightening scenario, one that actually happened in nearby Auburn, Mass.
And, no, it wasnâ€™t the officer who was impaired; it was his cruiser.
Police departments locally and across the country are taking a second look at their cars, following reports that they produce elevated levels of carbon monoxide - levels that can be deadly to someone in a closed car.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. If you breathe in a lot of CO, the CDC warns, it can make you pass out or kill you.
Locally, as we learned in a story in Fridayâ€™s newspaper by reporters Lisa Backus and Justin Muszynski, Bristol plans to begin testing its fleet of 21 SUVs, while New Britain Police Chief James Wardwell has instructed officers to keep their cruisersâ€™ windows open at least a crack while the engine is running. Plainville, meanwhile, has installed carbon monoxide detectors in their seven Explorers.
All three departments are monitoring the situation, which is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, following 2,719 complaints from owners of these cars.
As we see it, we canâ€™t afford the usual deliberative pace of such investigations. This situation is potentially life-threatening, both for the officers using the cars and for the public which could be injured at the hands of an impaired driver.
This needs the kind of quick action nationally that we are seeing locally.