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How the President’s Motorcade is the Safest Ride in the World


Stop. The president’s in town. Expect life as we know it to stop. At least in terms of where we’re going to be allowed to walk. Look forward to not being able to cross the street to get your favorite pizza. Expect traffic backup as far as the next county or borough. Sit there in a car that’s moved maybe four inches in the last 45 minutes, and be reminded that you are probably the least important person on earth.

The presidential motorcade will to do that.

Unfortunately, long gone are the days when Americans lined the streets and had the privilege to wave to and perhaps get a wave back from the leader of the free world. Now, dark and prestigious, watch a seemingly unending series of vehicles take over the streets for miles, driving at rational speeds, unimpeded by any other cars that haven’t been invited to the party.

The presidential motorcade has to be the safest ride in the world.

Consisting of anywhere between 30 and 40 vehicles, the motorcade for the President of the United States is responsible for ensuring the safety of the country’s leader, and, well, basically taxiing him wherever he needs to go. It is also responsible for the transport and security of his spouse, security, and even members of the press. (How’d they get so lucky?) This can also include White House officials and VIP guests. (Mull that over while sitting in traffic because the motorcade’s on the other side of the city.)

There are armored vehicles, counter assault teams, and Secret Service agents. Even a hazardous materials team could take point if there’s an alert. There will also be a convoy of local police vehicles, usually leading and trailing the way, making sure the likes of you and I stay out of the way.

All this for one dude? There’s no way this guy doesn’t have solid auto insurance.

The Car(s)

For obvious reasons, it’s not easy to get details on any of the cars used by the motorcade. Over the years, presidents have been privileged to sit in the back of some pretty classy rides. President Nixon rode around in a custom made Lincoln Continental. Fitted with armor plating and bullet-resistant glass, a modified version of this vehicle was the auto of choice for both Presidents Carter and Reagan. All things considered, even President Taft’s 1909 Model M White was a state-of-the-art model for its time.

The current chief rides in an armored Cadillac DTS stretch sedan with tinted windows and bulletproof glass. At least two identical cars serve as decoys. It’s known the bodies are military grade, no less than five inches thick. The wheels are fitted with run-flat tires. This makes the vehicle maneuverable for a period of time if the tires are punctured. In some cities, they may arrange a complete decoy motorcade during the real one. During the real trip, the decoy limo(s) switch(es) places with the real deal constantly throughout the route.

The Secret Service vehicles will be the classiest town car available, of course. Again, bulletproof glass and tinted windows, and though interior details aren’t available, it’s guaranteed each has the sweetest sound system one can get their hands on. These vehicles lead and flank the motorcade. I don’t believe they have those poor schmucks running alongside the cars anymore. At least not since Clint Eastwood did it.

Ready for Action

The motorcade is essentially broken up in two parts. The first is called the “secure package.” Driven by professional drivers, this package is ready to break off from the motorcade at the slightest sign of disturbance. This package will consist of no less than two of the limousines, heavily guarded by local law enforcement and the Secret Service. Their responsibility is to get the president and any key members to any of the prearranged safe locations that are established long in advance of the departure.

The second part of the motorcade is made up of vans and SUVs, transporting what we’ll call “the dispensable.” Because while the president is whisked off to safety, no one knows what happens to the second part in case of an emergency. Guess it’s “See ya. Wouldn’t wanna be ya.”

We do know there is a tactical SWAT team prepared to dive head-first into any trouble. They’re in the highest tech sports utility vehicle one could get their hands on. There’s also an ambulance and a communications van keeping track of everything. That’s right — a van solely to keep minutes of the trip.

There’s no doubt the president’s motorcade is the safest ride in the world.