The Democratic-led state Senate on Tuesday approved package of measures meant to strengthen limousine safety in New York as well as extend the life of a safety task force created after a 2018 crash in Schoharie County killed 20 people.
Lawmakers are considering the measures this year after state Inspector General Lucy Lang's office released a report this past fall finding regulatory shortcomings in New York for stretch limousine safety.
At the same time, lawmakers pointed to the 2015 crash of a stretch limo that killed four people in Long Island.
"These are preventable crashes," said state Sen. Tim Kennedy, the top Democrat on the chamber's Transportation Committee. "We want to make sure it never happens again and I believe strongly this legislation we’ve put forward will ensure this never happens again."
Republican state Senator Jim Tedisco believes lawmakers must also address the regulatory and oversight issues raised by a state inspector general report stemming from the Schoharie crash.
"We’ve got to drill down and find why those communication lapses took place, what legislation we can make to make sure they are communicating next time and they don’t allow that vehicle to be on the road," Tedisco said.
The bills include the creating of a safety rating system to line up more closely with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's system known as SAFER. Lawmakers also want to create a pre-trip safety briefing for passengers that is similar to what is administered to airline passengers.
And lawmakers want to age out stretch limos that have reached 350,000 miles or 10 years of service, whichever comes first. Another bill would equip limousines with emergency tools like window break equipment as well as fire extinguishers.
Separately, lawmakers are also calling for the requirement of roll-over protection devices in the vehicles.
Limousine safety has been weighed over the years in the state Legislature following the 2018 crash of a stretch limo that killed 18 people in the vehicle as well as two bystanders at a restaurant. The crash was the deadliest transportation disaster in a decade in the United States.
A subsequent investigation by the federal National Transportation Safety Board in 2020 faulted the brake system in the limousine.
Lawmakers do expect to take further action as the Senate advanced a bill to also extend the limousine stafety task force, which has developed regulations – a move backed by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.
"That limousine safety task force, they’re the ones discussing all this, collecting information from other states, from other areas, anywhere they can gather information on the latest safety and seeing if we can do something further here," he said.
For people in the industry like Premiere Transportation President David Brown the measures will make a difference for passenger safety.
"It will definitely keep the consumer, the passenger, safe," he said. "It’s all in the way it’s enforced.
But he also expects smaller limousine businesses will have more work to do to comply with any safety changes.
"It’s going to have a big impact implementing these new laws and regulations on the smaller companies where the bigger companies already have a lot of this going for them," Brown said.
A member of the limo task force, Brown said Tuesday he’s prepared for further discussion on the issue.
"Obviously there’s a lot of concerns in this industry and the wounds from the Long Island accident and from Schoharie, even though it’s a while ago, those wounds are still open and they want to make sure that everything is done to prevent this from happening again," he said.