5 Things You Didn’t Know About Police Cars

If you live in a town or city, chances are you see police cars every day patrolling the neighbourhood or rushing to the scene of a crime. We’ve become accustomed to their distinctive look, and wherever you are in the world it’s usually easy to recognise a police car, even if you don’t know the local language. Here are five fun facts you probably didn’t know about police cars:

1. The first police car
The first ever police car was put into use in Ohio, USA, in 1899. It was a wagon that ran on electricity, which meant it needed to be recharged every 30 miles. Although it looked immensely different to the police cars we see on the streets today, it did have some surprisingly similar features. The car was furnished with electric lights, a stretcher to transport any injured civilians, and a gong that could be used to make a loud noise in an emergency. Its first task was to collect a drunken man who was causing trouble in the streets, a situation that will sound very familiar to the British policemen and women of today!

2. Police car modifications
You may be surprised to learn that a police car is not just a regular vehicle with a flashing light, a siren and a blue and yellow stripe added. In fact, it is modified in many ways to ensure it is as effective as possible in keeping the public safe. The markings on a police car are painted with retroreflective paint, which reflects light with the minimum amount of scattering. Most police cars have diesel engines due to the lower fuel costs, and they often have special technology such as tracking systems and calibrated speedometers. Traffic cars are the most powerful police cars, as they are used in high speed chases or to respond to an emergency in a large area.

3. Police car security
Security is naturally very important with police cars, so companies such as Traka provide specialised methods of controlling access to the vehicles. Managing a fleet of police cars involves the use of specially designed keys, which ensure that only the permitted person has access to a particular vehicle. It also allows the constabulary management to track who has used each car, so they know who was responsible for any damage. This system encourages police personnel to return keys to a specified box or case, rather than keeping them in their pocket or personal drawer, ensuring cars are being used and shared as effectively as possible.

4. Nicknames for police cars
Over the years, police cars have picked up a variety of nicknames in the UK and around the world. Some of the most amusing British terms include the fuzzmobile or jam sandwich. In the UK, police vans are known as meat wagons, while in the US this term refers to an ambulance instead. The UK also has different names to distinguish different types of police car, for example the panda car (named as such because they were originally painted black and white) is a car used for patrolling the streets, while a response car is used in an emergency.

5. Police car collectors
Did you know police cars are a collector’s item? There are people around the world who spend all their savings on collecting different models of police vehicles when they are sold off after police use. There are even special events where emergency vehicles are shown, such as the popular Chicagoland Emergency Vehicles Show, which takes place annually in Illinois. This is an opportunity to see police cars from different countries and different times in history.

Police cars are not just cars used by the police, but vehicles specially designed to serve and protect the public. It’s because of their importance in society that they have so many nicknames, become collector’s items, and have such a fascinating history.

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Written by Matt Hill, a security expert and blogger.

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