Deadly N.Y. Crash Spotlights Loopholes For Limos From Harlem To The Hudson

Crains NY reports that a limousine crash over the weekend that killed 20 people has focused attention on rules governing the ungainly vehicles.

The rules governing the ungainly vehicles, which can be as long as 30 feet and are exempt from the crash standards that apply to new cars and trucks.

The white, stretch Ford Excursion limo lost control Saturday and barreled through a stop sign and slammed into an unoccupied SUV in Schoharie, New York, about 40 miles west of Albany. Among the dead were four sisters, two brothers and at least three young couples.

The driver wasn’t properly licensed and the limo had failed a state safety inspection last month and shouldn’t have been on the road…

The driver wasn’t properly licensed and the limo had failed a state safety inspection last month and shouldn’t have been on the road, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, according to Associated Press. The state ordered the company, Prestige Limousine, shut down.

The National Transportation Safety Board will examine federal oversight of the limousine industry as part of its investigation into the crash, which is the deadliest U.S. transportation accident since 2009, Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

“I think the fact that we have 20 fatalities in a single vehicle crash—18 plus two pedestrians—that in itself is enough to certainly get the attention of the National Transportation Safety Board,” Sumwalt said Monday in an interview.

Stretch limousines are often converted cars or SUVs. Lengthening the vehicles and adding new seating configurations can undercut the federally mandated safety features designed by the original manufacturer, according to crash-worthiness experts.

Stretch limousines are often converted cars or SUVs. Lengthening the vehicles and adding new seating configurations can undercut the federally mandated safety features designed by the original manufacturer, according to crash-worthiness experts.

“Once you start modifying the vehicle, you pretty much undo all of that,” said Raul Arbelaez, vice president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s vehicle research center in Virginia. “When a vehicle is stretched, the main thing that’s taken into account is to make sure that it is structurally stable and roadworthy in order to carry the occupants and handle the load and be durable, not necessarily to withstand any crash forces.”

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‘Frankenstein’ vehicles

The addition of several thousand pounds of additional frame and sheet metal from the longer body and the added weight of carrying more than a dozen passengers also puts far greater strain on a stretch limo’s brakes and tires than they were originally designed for, he said.

“It’s clear that they don’t have the same safety design standards as those same vehicles had before they’re stretched or modified.”

“There’s a bit of a Frankenstein approach, where a vehicle is chopped up and put back together with parts that were not originally designed for that vehicle,” said Deborah Hersman, president of the National Safety Council advocacy group and a former NTSB chair. “It’s clear that they don’t have the same safety design standards as those same vehicles had before they’re stretched or modified.”

“The fatal crash highlights a number of shortcomings in such vehicles, including crashworthiness, seat belt use and the patchwork of state and federal regulations that provide inadequate oversight,” Hersman said.

“This is an area where we clearly have a gap that needs to be addressed and it’s incumbent upon state policymakers and the feds to work together and address this,”

“This is an area where we clearly have a gap that needs to be addressed and it’s incumbent upon state policymakers and the feds to work together and address this,” she said.

Seatbelts

The crash occurred at the Apple Barrel Country Store off a T-junction where two highways meet. A manager of the store said the limo was coming down the hill at “probably” 60 miles per hour, the New York Times reported.

“One of the issues the NTSB agency will be looking at is the lack of a requirement in New York state that limo passengers wear seat belts,”

“One of the issues the NTSB agency will be looking at is the lack of a requirement in New York state that limo passengers wear seat belts,” Sumwalt said. “Investigators still hadn’t determined whether passengers were restrained as of Monday morning,” he said.

Three years ago, after four women died and two others were seriously injured in a limo accident on Long Island, New York, Senator Chuck Schumer called for an investigation into federal safety standards.

Read the entire article here.


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