By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer
You might not have to try so hard to spot the Smokey up ahead. These days, Ohio state troopers want to catch your eye.Some of the patrol's new white cruisers began appearing recently in Warren, Clermont, Brown Clinton and Greene counties as part of an effort to phase out charcoal-gray cars that have been a standard for at least 10 years.
"We are not out there trying to hide. We want people to see us out there," said Sgt. Robin Schmutz, at the Ohio State Highway Patrol's headquarters in Columbus.
She said the switch was prompted by a rash of troopers being struck recently during traffic stops, including the November 2001 death of Trooper Frank Vasquez.
Vasquez was struck and killed by a drunk driver while making a routine traffic stop in the median of Interstate 270 in Franklin County.
"It's really an officer safety issue," she said.
Local posts have eight of 128 new 2003 Ford Crown Victorias that have been issued so far statewide, Schmutz said.
They are in use at posts in Batavia, Lebanon, Georgetown, Wilmington and Xenia.
The first 11 cruisers were distributed in February to district winners of Trooper of the Year awards and to another trooper who recovered the most stolen vehicles for 2002.
Schmutz said it will be two to three years before the patrol's entire fleet of 1,200 marked patrol cars is replaced.
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