New York Limo Crash Heightens Safety Concerns; State Regulations Didn’t Prevent Deadly Accident

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October 9, 2018

By Mike Snider

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 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 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 an 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.

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—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. Those vehicles are still required to pass local or state road tests.

What safety features are removed?

Even before it was modified, the 2001 Ford Excursion 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-N.Y., who asked the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate limo accidents nationwide after a 2015 accident in Long Island, New York, in which four women were killed when a truck hit their limo.

Have there been safety concerns in the past?

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, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Will this incident have any effect on the limo service industry?

Industry workers point out safety regulations already exist—enforcement of them tis 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.”

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