Four sisters died when a limousine loaded with revelers bound for a 30th birthday party blew through a stop sign at the end of a highway and slammed into a parked SUV outside a store, killing all 18 people in the limo and two pedestrians. (Oct. 7)
The state of New York might have some of the nation’s toughest regulations for limousines, but that still did not prevent the country’s worst transportation accident in nearly a decade on Saturday.
All 18 people in an SUV limo and two pedestrians were killed when the vehicle crashed Saturday in upstate New York, about 160 miles north of New York City.
The limo group, who were heading to a Cooperstown, New York, brewery for a surprise birthday party, originally rented a bus, but it broke down and the limousine was substituted. One of the passengers complained about the condition of the Ford Excursion limo in a text message to her mother shortly before the crash, The Washington Post reported.
Any limousine operating in the state of New York must meet vehicle and driver’s license regulations that are among the toughest in the nation, said Kevin Barwell, president of the Limousine, Bus, Taxi, Operators of Upstate New York.
Limousine operators must comply with strict state laws and federal laws if they operate between states or venture into Canada. In this case, the Albany-area limo operator Prestige Limo had failed a recent state inspection and did not have appropriate federal certification, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
The road where the accident happened, a T-shaped intersection, may also have contributed to the incident, Barwell said.
What type of regulations are there for limousines and drivers?
All states require licenses for limousines and drivers. In the state of New York, each for-hire vehicle that seats 10 or more passengers must be inspected twice a year by the state Department of Transportation. The Ford Excursion limo involved in Saturday’s crash failed a state inspection last month, Cuomo said.
Vehicles that cross state lines, or go into Canada must be licensed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and meet requirements including inspection record-keeping, driver qualification and medical examination requirements. The Ford Excursion limo did not have this certification, either, Cuomo said.
Customers can look for a vehicle’s license approval stickers in the passenger side windshield.
Drivers must have a qualified driver’s license and pass vision, written and road tests. And drivers who operate vehicles with nine or more passengers must have a commercial driver’s license. Those drivers must also pass physical exams and are subject to random drug testing.
The driver of the vehicle – identified as Scott Lisincchia, according to media reports – did not have the appropriate driver’s license to operate the limo, Cuomo said.
Who makes modifications to the limos?
Manufacturers such as Ford and General Motors make their own Lincoln MKT Town Car and Cadillac XTS limousines. But stretch SUVs are typically converted by custom limo manufacturers who basically saw a vehicle in two, expand it and then outfit the inside. Those vehicles are still required to pass local or state road tests.
More manufacturers have begun focusing on limousine buses and “sprinter” vans for carrying passengers. The 2001 Ford Excursion stretch limousine involved in the New York accident represents a model Ford quit making more than a decade ago.
Ford said in a statement it does not currently have any information about the vehicle involved in the accident but is ready to cooperate with investigators.
Who are the customers typically?
Most people who rent super-stretch and stretch limos are infrequent customers looking for transportation for a special event. Regular customers are more likely to get a smaller sedan limousine or, for corporate events, use shuttles and “sprinter” vans, operators say.
What safety features are removed?
Even before it was modified, the 2001 Ford Excusion did not come with side airbags, according to Consumer Guide Automotive. Some stretch limousines have no airbags at all, said Angelo Roefero, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, who asked the NTSB to investigate limo accidents nationwide after a 2015 accident in Long Island, New York, in which four women touring wineries were killed when a truck hit their limo.
Schumer commended the NTSB for quickly getting to the scene of Saturday’s accident. In a statement, Schumer said he hopes the agency will establish more stringent safety regulations to prevent crashes and minimize their toll in the future.
“I … am very hopeful that we will have concrete answers soon,” he said. “My heartfelt condolences go out to the families and loved ones involved in this tragic accident. Right now, with more questions than answers, it is critical for the NTSB to get to the bottom of how this happened.”
Have there been safety concerns in the past?
There have been concerns about passengers not wearing seat belts while riding in limos.
From 2012 to 2016, the most recent years available, federal accident data show 11 of the 12 people killed in limo accidents were not wearing seat belts, said Russ Vader, a spokesman with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
No passengers were wearing seat belts in a New Jersey crash in June 2014, in which a Walmart truck hit a limo carrying comedian Tracy Morgan. One passenger died at the scene and four others were seriously injured. State laws in Delaware, where the limo van operator was based, and in New Jersey, where the crash occurred, had seat belt requirements.
After that crash, the NTSB said it wanted to increase passenger awareness about wearing seat belts.
Will this incident have any impact on the limo service industry?
Saturday’s accident will likely result in safety issues being highlighted, industry workers say. But they also point out the regulations already exist — it’s enforcement of them that is needed.
“Whether this vehicle was inappropriate for the task at hand, I don’t know enough,” said Jeff Rose, president of the Limo Association of New York. “But no matter how much regulations you have there may always be people who don’t obey all the regulations.”
He added: “Everybody in this industry is going to be heartsick over this.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
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The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. – Psalm 85:12
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