Standing shoulder to shoulder with family members of the victims of last year’s deadly limousine crash in Schoharie, New York, members of Congress announced a package of bills aimed at improving limo safety at the federal level Thursday.
Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the October 6, 2018 limo crash in Schoharie that killed 20 people.
The operator of the limo company involved faces 20 counts each of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter. And the families of the victims are continuing to fight for change at the state and federal level to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Representative Paul Tonko of New York’s 20th District, and Representative Antonio Delgado of the 19th, gathered with family members in Amsterdam one day after a report from the National Transportation Safety Board that detailed safety deficiencies in the modified 2001 Ford Excursion stretch limousine.
“It confirmed our suspicions that these lives were victims of a woefully broken and unregulated system that failed them by failing to establish or enforce basic standards, and it showed us that we can – we must – do more to close the fatal gaps in limo safety to contributed decisively to this tragedy,” said Schumer.
Also working with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democrats are introducing bills in the Senate and House to address limo safety. Schumer plans to introduce the bills in the Senate later this month.
Representative Paul Tonko, who calls Amsterdam home, will be introducing legislation into the Energy and Commerce Committee.
“My colleagues and I developed this plan working closely with these and other families of limo crash victims. Together, we undertook a deep assessment of the chronic failures in America’s limousine safety system. This limo safety plan is from our collective efforts,” said Tonko.
At times growing emotional, Tonko knew some of the victims and several of the family members.
“Vehicles that served as a death trap should not be allowed on the road. The anger we all feel about this is justified and we need to take action,” said Tonko.
The package of legislation includes three bills. The first is the SAFE Limos Act, which includes language focused on seatbelts, seating systems, altering used vehicles, crash safety, limo evacuation, inspections, event data recorders, and compliance with federal safety standards.
Also being introduced, the Take Unsafe Limos Off The Road Act, to incentivize state governments to impound or immobilize vehicles that fail safety inspections.
The third, the End the Limo Loophole Act, would require limos to comply with commercial motor vehicle safety standards.
Representative Delgado will introduce language into the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“These initiatives are all critical steps to improve the safety and accountability of these vehicles on the road. I join my colleagues today to urge these life-saving measures through committee and to the floor so no family and no community ever experiences the pain and loss we have seen in Montgomery and Schoharie,” said Delgado.
A few limousine safety standards sought by Governor Andrew Cuomo were passed as part of the New York state budget. Additional legislation was advanced by both the New York State Senate and Assembly, but the houses did not reconcile the packages before the end of the legislative session. A total of 29 pieces of legislation pertaining to limousine safety have been introduced.
A 2015 limo crash on Long Island where four died prompted similar calls for legislation at the state and federal level. Schumer said he worked with family members of the victims in that crash as well as the Schoharie tragedy in crafting legislation.
Kevin Cushing, who lost his son Patrick in the October 2018 crash, was happy to see the representatives promise to bring the charge to Washington.
“I think any real legislation has to happen at both the state and federal level. So we’re pleased as can be that they’ve taken up this mantle. And, you know, it’s been going on since the accident on Long Island. And we’ve hopefully raised the consciousness about it a little bit more. Unfortunately, our tragedy was 20 people, and that gets a lot of peoples’ attention. And we’re not going to be quiet. We’re getting pretty good at being loud,” said Cushing.