APD wants officers to be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning risks while driving

The Austin Police Department wants officers to be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning risks while driving. (Photo: CBS Austin)

A CBS Austin investigation in February tipped off Austin Police that they could have a problem with some of their police cruisers. Today APD announced the steps they're taking to protect all their officers.

On Saturday one Austin Police Officer almost fainted behind the wheel of their Ford Explorer. APD let it be known today that Saturday's incident was not the only problem associated with its new patrol cars. Assistant Chief Ely Reyes says, “In the last couple of months we've now had three different incidents reported by officers involving two vehicles where they say they've smelled exhaust or have some concern about carbon monoxide in the cabin of the vehicle."

This is an issue CBS Austin's Walt Maciborski brought to APD's attention in February after a California officer was injured in a crash in the same kind of Ford Explorers APD uses. Now Austin Police are taking action. Reyes says, “he city fleet will be purchasing carbon monoxide detectors that will be hard-wired, and the vehicle will give an audible alarm if the carbon monoxide levels in the car reach above a certain area."

If you're concerned about possible CO build-up in your car we found a similar battery-powered alarm for $20 at the local hardware store. It's simple enough. Turn on the detector and place it in your car with the engine running for ten minutes. If the carbon monoxide in the car reaches dangerous levels the alarm sounds to let you know you've got a problem.

We reached out to local car experts to see if we should be worried. They tell us they actually see very few cases of exhaust leaking into cars. Shawn Nicholson, owner of Riethmeyer’s Auto Repair says, “I think it's sealed up so tight underneath and the emissions systems are sealed tight, the exhaust systems are sealed tight, it would be kind of difficult to get that kind of stuff into cars under normal circumstances there."

But police cruisers are not normal. Lots of additional wiring is added by outside vendors. Until the detectors can be installed, APD plans to install special stickers in the explorers that change color if the CO level gets too high. Those stickers are expected to arrive Tuesday.

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