The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended New York pass legislation to require mandatory seat belt use for passengers in limousines, according to a safety report released in Oct. The report follows a pair of deadly limousine crashes in New York, including the 2015 crash in Cutchogue that left four young women dead and the upstate crash in Schoharie last year that killed 20.
The report lists a series of limo safety recommendations for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the NYS Department of Transportation and the National Limousine Association (NLA). These include lap and shoulder pads for each passenger on all new vehicles, requiring that seating systems installed in new vehicles meet minimum performance standards, educating limousine operators on life-saving benefits for proper seat belt use and “enact[ing] legislation that provides for primary enforcement of a mandatory seat belt use law.” Several “safety issues were identified related to occupant protection” to decrease fatalities.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has outlined finalized federal limo safety regulations he plans to introduce as part of the SAFE Limos Act of 2019, which mandates recommendations made by the NTSB but goes further in requiring limo manufacturers altering used vehicles to certify that federal safety standards are met. The legislation would direct the Secretary of Transportation to develop and issue guidelines to assist coachbuilders in best practices. It also directs NHTSA to conduct research into limousine crashes – including side impact protection, roof crush resistance and airbag system protections for occupants. The plan also requires research into limousine evacuation methods, in the event one or more exits in the passenger compartment are blocked. Lastly, the legislation would require the use of event data recorders, much like a “black box,” for all new limos.
Working with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. representatives Paul Tonko (D-Amsterdam) and Antonio Delgado (D-Rhinebeck), Schumer also plans to introduce the Take Unsafe Limos Off the Road Act, creating “a new grant program to support states’ efforts to impound or immobilize vehicles that fail inspection for critical safety reasons.” He is also calling to eliminate a safety loophole that affects stretch limos altered after manufacture as part of the End the Limo Loophole Act.
The NLA has already said it will adopt the safety recommendations released by the NTSB. The NTSB asked the NLA to “educate” its member companies on the “life-saving benefits of proper seat belt use” and to develop programs to ensure that limo owners make sure seatbelts are functional, accessible to passengers and that passengers are encouraged to use them during rides.
The general counsel for the NLA told the NTSB that it is planning to develop an educational program around seat belt use in limousines that will be presented at its “next two consecutive conferences.”