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Re-Introduced Limo Safety Measures Moving Ahead In Congress

The limo involved in the 2018 crash in Schoharie, NY.
National Transportation Safety Board
The limo involved in the 2018 crash in Schoharie, NY.

Limousine safety measures spurred on by the deadly Schoharie crash in 2018 are advancing through a Congressional committee.

Twenty people died in the October 2018 limousine crash in Schoharie.

Since then, the families of the victims have been pushing for safety reforms at the state and federal level. While there’s been some success in New York, reforms included in a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill languished in the U.S. Senate last summer.

Kevin Cushing, who lost his son in the Schoharie limo tragedy, was disappointed.

“Obviously the political process is slow, it’s sometimes painful, but it’s the way it works. And it took some time and we seem to have…I’m somewhat hopeful and optimistic based upon what I’m hearing today,” said Cushing.

With the new Congress, the package of reforms was re-introduced, and today parts of the plan backed by New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and New York Congressmembers Paul Tonko, Antonio Delgado and Elise Stefanik, are making their way through the House Transportation Committee.

Tonko, a Democrat of the 20th District, hails from the City of Amsterdam, like several of the Schoharie limo crash victims and their families.

“We now have three pieces of our national limousine safety reforms advancing through Congress as part of a must-pass surface transportation bill,” said Tonko.

Tonko is referring to bills to require limousine drivers hold a commercial driver’s license, to incentivize states to impound unsafe vehicles, and to direct the Transportation Secretary to review states’ practices for annual limousine inspections.

Delgado is a Democratic member of the House Transportation Committee. His 19th District includes the site of the 2018 crash. Delgado is advocating for the so-called End Limo Loopholes Act, part of the package of safety reforms moving through committee.

“Fact of the matter is under the current law, a commercial motor vehicle is defined as one that designed to transport more than 15 passengers including the driver, so vehicles that are altered post-manufacturing to accommodate nine or more passengers – as many stretch limos are – fall outside this definition. We have to close that loophole.”

Other reforms would require passage through the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to Tonko, a member of that committee. Those provisions involve seatbelts, seat integrity, and other items.

Tonko says he feels “really strong” about the reforms, on behalf of the families.

“We now as a Congress, both houses, must past this legislation. I encourage our partners in the Senate to follow what we’re doing in the House and get it on the president’s desk,” said Tonko.

Delgado is also hopeful.

“Being able to take another run at this and do say in a way that I think is very targeted, very clear, and very needed puts us in a very strong position. And all I can do is advocate very strongly for the provisions,” said Delgado.

Cushing says the push for change, and the challenges faced by the families most affected, have been daunting…

“But it’s also been rewarding to know that we’re hopefully making a difference in a future, potential future issue that took other families…loved ones. And that’s really what our goal is and I think we’re a step closer to that today, much closer to that end today than we were three years ago,” said Cushing.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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