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Police looking to save money

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

The Chiefland Police Department has seen the light and will be saving on its fuel bill as a result.

The "enlightment" came when the department ran a test on a police car without the familiar rooftop light bar, using lights that are mounted inside the windshields.

Chief Robert Douglas said he decided to go with the new lights after doing a test drive. "I did a test drive for 50 miles," he said. "Without the light bar I got 25 miles per gallon and with the light bar on I got 16 miles per gallon."

He even says that's pretty amazing savings for a department that swills about 16,000 gallons a year for its 10 cars from city-operated pumps. "That was normal driving, not driving around the city or on code (responding to an emergency). I think we're going to use less gas."

At a cost of $3.90 per gallon, a 25 percent savings would cut his budget by $15,600.

The reason the department is able to save so much by taking off the light bars is simple physics. The bars do not weigh that much, Douglas said.

"But it's like having an airplane wing on top of the car," he said. "It causes drag. It's like having a parachute behind you creating a drag." And they are noisy - not from the siren - but from the wind resistance.

The department expects the savings to go beyond gasoline. Losing the "drag" will mean less wear and tear on the engines.

The new light bars use light emitting diodes, instead of bulbs, so they consume less power from the cars' electrical systems.

Eight cars have already been fitted with the new inside light bars in the past month. Douglas will seek funding for the final two cars from the Chiefland City Commission.

Funds for the new light bars come from the cost recovery fund. The cost recovery fund gets its money by billing insurance companies $175 each for traffic accident reports done by the police.

The company of the at-fault driver is billed for the report. The department works about 30 crashes a month and receives payment on about 7-8 per month, Douglas said.