Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday announced new legislation to beef up safety standards for modified limousines — one year after 20 people were killed in a horrific upstate limo crash.
Schumer said he will introduce a bill to require seat belts, stricter requirements for seats and other safety features like side air bags that are not currently required for limos.
The New York Democrat particularly wants tighter regulations for passenger cars that are converted into stretch limos, which can fall between the cracks due to loopholes under the current law.
“We have regulations for cars, we have regulations for trucks, but not for limos,” Schumer said, standing alongside the family of victims of another fatal limo crash — the 2015 Bethpage wreck that killed four.
“It’s not going to be an easy road,” he said. “I’m sure there are going to be certain powerful interests that are going to fight back in the limousine area and in other areas. But we’re going to keep fighting and fighting and fighting until we get these bills passed into law.”
Schumer’s announcement comes just days after the National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday released a report on the Oct. 6, 2018 crash in Schoharie that killed 17 passengers, the driver and two pedestrians when the limo ran a stop sign.
The report determined that many of the passengers in the customized 2001 Ford Excursion could have survived the crash if they had been wearing seat belts — and the belts in the car had been up-to-snuff.
Such passenger vehicles that are chopped up and expanded into stretch limos pose a particular concern because they don’t fall under the same safety standards as passenger vehicles.
New cars turned into stretch limos do have to pass basic federal safety standards, such as side impact protection and roof crush resistance. But used vehicles that are converted do not.
And none of the converted limos — new or used — qualify under the current commercial vehicle definition, and are thus not held to additional safety standards for commercial vehicles.
Paul Schulman, whose daughter, Brittney, was one of four girls killed in the 2015 Long Island crash, said the measure is long overdue.
“We will get this done,” Schulman said. “This is for the girls — not just my daughter, but for the girls who were injured, who probably, mentally, aren’t going to be the same after witnessing what happened to their friends.”
“I’m lucky,” crash survivor Nancy DiMonte added. “But it doesn’t mean I’m not going to work as hard as possible to get done what needs to be done.”
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