Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is calling on Ford Motor Co. to offer gas tank shields for Crown Victoria taxi cabs after a fiery crash in New York City that killed a cab driver. Gurbaj Singh's cab burst into flames after being struck in the side by a suspected drunken drivers minivan December 26.

The New York Democrat suggested Ford may be partly to blame for the death of the taxi driver. In a December 30 letter to Ford Chairman and CEO Bill Ford Jr., Schumer urged a "major design overhaul" of the sedans, which are the most popular vehicle in the New York City taxi fleet.

The Crown Victoria is a full-sized, rear-wheel drive sedan and is also popular with older drivers and police departments as well as taxi services. Critics contend that the location of the gas tank, behind the rear axle, leaves the Crown Victoria vulnerable to rupture and fire in a rear-end crash.

Ford has offered shields for gas tanks on Crown Victoria police cruisers after several police officers died in post-crash fires. Most of the deaths occurred when the cruisers were struck from behind at extremely high speeds and the gas tank ruptured.

Schumer says Ford should offer the gas tank shields to New York City cabbies.

Ford tests the Crown Victoria at speeds that exceed requirements imposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to a company spokesman and the vehicle holds up well in the tests.