Vehicle inspections should include the tires, interior, exterior, trunk and emergency equipment. (Photo Rick Roach)
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The proper inspection of a police vehicle is the first line of defense in the safety of officers when they're behind the wheel. Just as officers check their uniform and duty gear before work, the inspection of the police vehicle is a must.
- Frequency: If a vehicle is shared with other officers, then a complete inspection each day prior to the shift is a must. Just as you would do a complete search of a prisoner handed over to you, the vehicle should be treated in a similar fashion. If the car is assigned to you, a complete inspection should be completed each time you place fuel in the car. Emergency equipment, tires, brakes, fluids and objects inside the vehicle are all important to ensure a safe shift.
- Emergency equipment: It's never a good time to find out your emergency equipment isn't working when you have to respond to a true emergency. Emergency lights, siren and headlights should all be checked prior to the beginning of the shift.
- Tires: The only item on the vehicle that actually touches the roadway, tires, is the mainstay of driving safety. If there were one item on your vehicle to check often and with due diligence, the vehicle tires are it. Tire tread is vital for traction and puncture resistance. You can quickly measure the tread by inserting a penny into the tread depth. If Lincoln's head is visible, it's time to replace the tires. A visual inspection of the overall tire should be done to ensure there aren't any cuts or objects on the tire. It's difficult to ascertain inflation just by looking, so use a tire gauge. Under or over inflation is a significant issue for the public and the police. The manufacturer of your vehicle or your garage can advise you of the proper tire pressure. Air pressure should be checked when your tires are cold.
- Interior: All of the warning lights should be checked, along with the brake pedal. If it feels spongy, the vehicle should immediately be taken to a mechanic. If the steering wheel contains excessive play or makes noises while turning, it should be given to a mechanic as well. The seatbelt should be inspected for tears and put on to ensure it's working properly. All items inside the vehicle should be secured. A collision at 60 mph will cause anything inside the vehicle to travel at the same speed. Being struck by a flying object can lead to serious injury or death.
- Exterior: The windshield and windows should be inspected and cleaned if they're dirty. Obstructed views, especially at night can be very dangerous. Any body damage on the vehicle should be properly documented.
- Trunk: All gear should be secured in the trunk in a manner that minimizes the chances of a vehicle fire. Take care when packing your trunk to keep metal objects away from the fuel tank. In addition, the movement of equipment in the trunk while driving can cause an unexpected shift in the rear of the vehicle, altering vehicle dynamics.
Fluid levels, including the oil and brake fluids, should be checked regularly.
A vehicle inspection is as important as your firearm inspection, and by spending a few minutes each day you can increase operational efficiency, reduce repair costs and, most importantly, prevent collisions.