You might be tempted to call them "ghost cars," though these new Florida Highway Patrol cruisers don't technically disappear.
- FHP has 4 new stealthy vehicles on Florida's roads
- 'Subdued' cruisers have logos, lettering that's reflective
- Cars also feature more camera, sensor capability
Not only do the stealthy cars look vastly different than the traditional two-toned black-and-tan cruisers, they also look different depending on the time of day.
On the road, the FHP's "subdued" cars — their official name — might be mistaken as everyday civilian cars, tooling along next to you. But when sunlight — or headlights — bounce off their markings, the difference can be an "uh-oh" moment.
But the Hemi V8 Dodge Charger RT Slicktop has intriguing features both inside and out. Slicktop refers to fact that there are no lights on the outside top of the car — they're hidden inside the vehicle itself.
Right now, the FHP has four subdued cars on the road across the state: one each in Central Florida, Tampa, Jacksonville and Tallahassee. Soon, there will be three more, in Miami, the Panhandle and West Palm Beach.
The FHP says the added upgrades and reflective decal application only cost the state of Florida roughly $180 above the normal cost of the vehicle.
"We're saving the taxpayer money, right there," said Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Steven Montiero, who took us for a spin recently. Montiero is the public affairs officer for FHP's Troop D, based in Orlando.
"To debunk any myths that any driver or aggressive speeder out there may think, the truth is, we can clock your speed whether we're sitting still or we're moving, whether you're coming at us or going away from us," Montiero said.
During our ride-along, he demonstrated how he can switch the settings to track a vehicle's speed from either the subdued car's front or back antennae (which clocks the speed of cars coming from the rear of his patrol vehicle).
On this day, plenty of cars were zooming by the stealthy, reflective, silver-on-black, two-toned car.
It wasn't long before Montiero turned on his upgraded siren.
He pointed. "Right now, we're going 75 in a posted 55 mph zone, and we're tracking this blue Corolla over here."
The mission of the FHP subdued vehicle is to snag not just aggressive or impaired drivers but also a driver who is just not paying attention.
Not paying attention not only can lead to mishaps, it can also grab the attention of a trooper.
"That aggressive driver who is in and out, who may be using that phone -- they're so busy with everything else, they're not going to see this car," Montiero said.
"She's in and out of traffic," Montiero said of a motorist. "(She's doing) 80 mph... now 83 mph... in a posted 55 mph zone. We're going to go ahead and pull her over."
He did. And, his part of the conversation with that 25-year-old female driver went something like this:
- "Did you see the car when you passed me?"
- "Is there ANY reason why you're going 85 mph in a posted 55 mph zone?"
- "Did you know that going that much over the limit requires an automatic court appearance?"
- "Chalk this up as a little educational lesson."
- "Pay attention please. It's 55 through here."
Montiero came back to the subdued car and said she told him she was late to work and had never had a ticket in her life.
This was her lucky day: Her good record remained intact for now: Montiero let her go without writing her up. He said she said she had learned her lesson.
But, the FHP's new tricked-out crime machine has even more tools to offer troopers:
- Bullet-resistant side-door panels containing Kevlar — the same material in bulletproof vests.
- A wrap-around push bumper on the front of the car. It can be used to push a disabled vehicle off the road or when suddenly encountering a wild animal. Montiero pointed out that the FHP fleet is often on remote roads, and coming into contact with a cow or even a small deer can do significant damage to the car body and endanger the life of the trooper. The wrap-around bumper is now attached to the car frame itself, so it won't crumble or crush the front of the hood and radiator.
- A high definition camera, keeping an eye on suspects placed in the back seat. "Once they see that camera, their behavior tends to change," Montiero said. And, as soon as the flashing blue lights go on, they automatically trigger another in-car camera, facing to the front. That front-facing camera is recording 24-7 (though may not be saving all the video). That all changes just as soon as the dashboard area camera turns on: It triggers the "brain" of the camera to rewind itself by 30 seconds, dipping back into that unsaved archive to retrieve it, and then save that additional segment of video. Montiero says that aids the trooper in providing context to whatever traffic moment caught his attention. The trooper will then have an additional 30 seconds of what was going on, even before the "record" button was engaged.
Coming soon to the subdued car: A moving camera that follows a trooper's every move while he or she is outside the car. This is accomplished by the trooper also wearing a sensor. Troopers already wear a microphone on their gear belt.
Also, the computer will be integrated into the dashboard, keeping troopers' eyes forward as opposed to being off to the side on an arm apparatus.
Montiero's last bits of advice: Pay attention; be courteous to other drivers; obey posted speed limits. That way, you're less likely to be pulled over by the stealthy subdued car.
As in the case of the woman in the blue Corolla: It's likely troopers will see you before you see them.
"This car, it did its job. And I can almost guarantee you that we've stopped that behavior on that driver for some time (to come)," Montiero said.