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NY Senate Holding Public Hearing On Limo And Bus Safety Thursday

New York State Police

A New York state Senate committee will hold public hearing on limo and bus safety Thursday — nearly seven months after a limo crash in Schoharie killed 20 people. 

Investigations continue into the October 6th incident, when a stretch limousine barreled down a steep hill and crashed into a parking lot at the junction of New York state routes 30 and 30A. 

Several limousine safety provisions were passed in the New York state budget signed April 1st, including a new inspection fee and tougher penalties for limo operators who try to circumvent safety. Additional measures are expected to be suggested Thursday.

Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin represents the 88th district:   "Stretch limousines are the vehicle of choice for so many happy occasions from family events to birthdays to weddings to the annual ritual of prom. We need to make sure we're doing everything we can to prevent the operation of these vehicles in an unsafe manner that could put our children and loved ones in danger. And unfortunately we have seen too many crashes  and preventable tragedies, even from vehicles that pass inspection that are operated in an unsafe manner."

Paulin concedes no one knows whether any of the many proposals on the table will prevent the next terrible accident.

Kevin Barwell is president of the Limousine, Bus and Taxi Operators of Upstate New York.    "95 percent of the operators, you know, that are operating here, are legitimate operators that work 100 percent for safety, work 100 percent to operate, you know, a legitimate company, bringing out safe vehicles for their clients and for the citizens of New York state. And then we're working to create, you know, a safe environment as well so that on one has to go through what these families and these people had to go through."

Barwell testified before the state Senate in February and plans to be back Thursday. He's calling on the state to plug any loopholes.   "...and that the DOT and DMV and all these departments communicate with each other so that in the future this will not happen."

111th district Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Democrat, says the state must go the extra mile when it comes to transparency.  "I started to think about my engineering license. I'm a special engineer in the state of New York. So my license, there's an online database, New York State Education Department has an office of the profession, they have a licensing database, so when I practice civil engineering, anybody that would hire me, could look on this database and very quickly see if there were any violations, if my license was suspended, any other issues with my license whatsoever would show up there. They would be able to check and see that I have a clean license, and then they would go ahead and hire me. So that sort of exchange between the consumer and the service, that protects the consumer, makes the information available, you know who you're hiring, but it also, to provide a database like that, also works in reverse. Because if I see on the database that there's a license that's suspended or a vehicle off the road and  it shows up in my house, no I can report it. Where, without that information being easily accessible, it makes it very difficult. This information right now, the limousine industry, it's very hard to come by, very difficult to obtain as we have seen."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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