Lawmakers Want Special Session For Limo Bills | WAMC

Lawmakers Want Special Session For Limo Bills

Oct 4, 2019

Federal lawmakers including the Senate Minority Leader announced a new package of bills aimed at improving limo safety on Thursday in Amsterdam. At the same time, New York state lawmakers are calling for more action just before the anniversary of last year’s deadly crash in Schoharie.

On October 6th, 2018, a modified stretch limousine carrying 17 passengers crashed after rolling down a steep hill in Schoharie, killing all on board and two bystanders.

Thursday, federal lawmakers appeared with family members of the victims in Amsterdam to outline legislation that will be introduced in the U.S. House and Senate to improve limo safety.

And state lawmakers are calling for similar laws at the state level.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a member of the transportation committee, was in attendance Thursday. The Democrat authored a number of limousine safety bills introduced in the last year.

He wants lawmakers to return to Albany for a special session before the legislature reconvenes in January.

“If there was ever a reason to go back, this is a top issue. This is a very important issue…I can’t imagine any legislator who is going to say, ‘No, I don’t want to go back for this issue.’ These are bills that can be passed and I think they can be passed unanimously.”

Senator James Tedisco, a Republican, agrees.

“I believe we have to come back and I’m asking the leaders in both the Senate and the Assembly and the governor to call a special session and bring us back in to deal with this issue, and pass the bills in both houses, and come to an agreement. And stop just pontificating and talking about what we need to do, and get it done.”

At least 29 pieces of legislation pertaining to limousine safety have been introduced, covering everything from closing loopholes to requiring seatbelt use.

On Wednesday, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report detailing deficiencies in the 2001 Ford Excursion stretch limo owned by Prestige Limousine in last year’s crash. NTSB chair Robert Sumwalt discussed the recommendations made to state and federal agencies with WAMC.

“The takeaways for this would be that we need three things: We need good seat integrity, which includes the anchorages; We need well-designed restraint systems such as lap/shoulder belts; and we know that seatbelts do you no good at all if you’re not wearing them, so we need proper seatbelt usage.”

Last year, the state Senate and Assembly could not come to agreement on limo regulations, though each house did pass its own package of bills. Here’s Senator Tim Kennedy, who chairs the Senate Transportation committee, speaking at a June press conference, just prior to the end of session.

“From requiring seatbelts in every vehicle carrying nine or more passengers, to mandating commercial driver’s licenses and drug and alcohol testing for drivers for for-hire vehicles...we’re taking significant steps to ensure safety measures are firmly in place when anyone steps into one of these vehicles," said Kennedy. 

Some new limousine regulations were included as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s state budget.

Among the provisions, new criminal penalties were created for operating unsafe vehicles. Limos are now prohibited from making U-turns, a factor in a 2015 deadly crash on Long Island. The state Department of Transportation was given authority to seize license plates from vehicles deemed unsafe, and more oversight given to the Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure vehicles comply with federal safety standards.

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a Democrat who is the co-sponsor of several limo safety bills including seatbelt requirements, said this week in a statement “we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to prevent the operation of these vehicles in an unsafe manner that could put our children and our loved ones in danger.”