In January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to sign new limousine safety regulation laws, due in large part to the deadly limo crash in Schoharie, NY that killed 20 people in October 2018. Limos are expected to be required to have at least two seat belts for the front seat and at least one in the rear for each passenger. Limo drivers carrying at least nine people will be required to have a commercial driver’s license. Drivers will be subject to pre-employment and random drug/alcohol tests.
The Long Island Limousine Association (LILA) weighed in on the package of comprehensive limousine reforms.
“[Our] members always stood behind the issue of safety – never did we fight it,” Penny Casey, LILA’s president said. “The accident upstate was … mechanical. The company had failed inspection numerous times. Instead of the inspection station reporting it and impounding the limousine, they chose to let it go back to the owner, who, in turn put it back on the road for service… The Department of Transportation, Department of Motor Vehicles, and state all failed to do their jobs here – hence the governor coming down on all the reputable ‘legal’ operators in New York State, crippling all of us.”
The reforms, according to Gov. Cuomo, include an “outright ban” on the registration of remanufactured limousines, prohibiting their operation in New York State; a requirement that drivers hold a commercial driver license with a special passenger endorsement to operate a for hire vehicle with eight or more passengers; making it a felony to remove an out of service sticker placed by a DOT inspector from a vehicle without having the vehicle re-inspected and cleared by DOT to return to service and increasing the civil penalty to a maximum fine of $25,000 per violation for any person found operating with suspended DOT operating authority or operating a vehicle without authority.
Other reforms include establishing stronger registration suspension and vehicle impoundment powers, including an explicit process for immediate suspension of operating authority by the DOT commissioner in circumstances that endanger the health, safety, and welfare of the public; authorizing the DOT and DMV to seize suspended license plates; making it a felony for any owner/operator to tamper with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard tag or vehicle inspection sticker; and ensuring vehicle impoundment occurs for felony violations and subjecting multiple violators to the potential for civil forfeiture of vehicle.
Additional changes include requiring mandatory reporting by inspection stations to DMV if a vehicle attempts an unauthorized inspection; creating new criminal penalties for any DMV-regulated inspection station that illegally issues an inspection sticker; prohibiting U-turns for larger vehicles on all roads within the state; eliminating the exception to seatbelt requirements for limousines, buses, taxis, liveries, and school buses; and establishing a DOT inspection fee of $120 per inspection for vehicles subject to such inspection.
The reform package could also require the DOT and the DMV to establish and publicize a toll-free hotline that allows individuals to report safety issues regarding stretch limousine vehicles or drivers.
“We have tried many times to get an appointment and meet with the governor, DOT and legislators so we may sit down with the experts and see how we can come to an agreement, but they refused to meet with us,” added Casey. “This was a one-man show by the governor, because he knew he had to do something since the state basically dropped the ball here with the accident upstate.”