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Lawmakers unveil plans for limo safety regulations

October 03, 2019 06:45 PM

A day after the National Transportation Safety Board released their preliminary report on last October's deadly limo crash in Schoharie, Senator Chuck Schumer is rolling out a congressional plan for federal limo safety regulations.

The Senate minority leader was joined by Rep. Paul Tonko and Rep. Antonio Delagdo in Amsterdam on Thursday.

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They say the crash that killed 20 people exposed gaping loopholes in federal safety regulations.

They believe the best way to honor the memory of the Schoharie victims is to enact their "Safe Limos Act" to prevent future tragedies from occurring.

The legislation would update safety belt standards, seating systems, inspection disclosure, and more.

Here's a detailed look at the legislation, courtesy of Senator Schumer's office:

  • Safety Belt Standards for Limousines: Under current law, limousines with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 8,500 pounds are not required to have lap shoulder belts for every seating position. The SAFE Limos Act will require each new limousine to have lap and shoulder belts that meet minimum safety requirements for each designated seating position.
  • Seating System Standards for Limousines: Limousine manufacturers are not required to meet minimum safety standards for seats, their attachment assemblies, and their installation to minimize the possibility of seats failing during a crash.  The SAFE Limos Act will require each new limousine to meet safety requirements for seat strength and integrity.
  • Retrofit Assessment for Existing Limousines: The SAFE Limos Act will require the Secretary of Transportation to evaluate the feasibility of retrofitting existing limousines with lap and shoulder belts and seat systems that meet minimum safety requirements.
  • Safety Standards for Altering Used Vehicles into Limousines: The modern limousine market is made up of several independent manufacturers that purchase and modify new or used vehicles into limousines.  Under current law, a limousine manufacturer that modifies a new vehicle into a limousine must certify that the altered vehicle still conforms with federal safety standards, such as side impact protections and roof crush resistance. Modifiers of used vehicles (i.e., vehicles that have been sold at least once, other than for resale), however, are not required to certify that their vehicles meet federal safety standards.  The SAFE Limos Act requires limousine manufacturers altering used vehicles to certify that the limousine meets federal safety standards.
  • Limousine Compliance with Federal Safety Standards: To assist limousine manufacturers in complying with federal safety standards, some automakers have created programs detailing what manufacturing limousine alterers should meet to ensure their altered motor vehicle complies with federal safety standards. Unfortunately, not all limousine alterers adhere to these programs. The SAFE Limos Act directs the Secretary of Transportation to develop and issue guidelines, best practices, and recommendations to assist a limousine alterer develop and administer a vehicle modifier plan. A limousine alterer is required to develop a vehicle modifier plan, subject to approval by the Secretary.
  • Limousine Crash Safety: Limousines are typically equipped with perimeter seating, in which the back of the seats lie against the interior of the passenger compartment. Such alternate seating arrangements can pose unique dangers to occupants. Further, side-impact protections are inconsistent across the limousine industry. The SAFE Limos Act directs NHTSA to conduct research into crashworthiness including side impact protection, roof crush resistance, and airbag system protections for all limousine occupants given alternative seating positions or interior configurations, including perimeter seating arrangements. NHTSA's findings should inform vehicle modifier plans.
  • Limousine Evacuation: Rapid egress from a vehicle after a crash can make the difference between life and death. Pursuant to prior recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the SAFE Limos Act will direct NHTSA to conduct research and issue standards that can aid egress and regress in the event that one exit in the limousine's passenger compartment is blocked. 
  • Limousine Inspection Disclosure: The SAFE Limos Act will require a limousine operator introducing a limousine into interstate commerce to disclose:
    1. Date of the most recent inspection of the limousine required under state or federal law;
    2. The results of the inspection; and
    3. Any corrective action taken by the limousine operator to ensure the limousine passes inspection. 
  • Event Data Recorders for Limousines: Event Data Recorders are devices installed in motor vehicles that collect valuable information about the nature of crashes to aid investigations. The SAFE Limos Act would require the use of Event Data Recorders for all new limousines.

Schumer, Tonko, Delgado, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are also calling on colleagues to pass the "Take Unsafe Limos off the Road Act," which would "create a new grant program to support states' efforts to impound or immobilize vehicles that fail inspection for critical safety reasons."

Credits

WNYT Staff & AP

Copyright 2019 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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