Task force urges safety improvements for stretch limos

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Stretch limousines, like the one involved in a 2018 wreck that killed 20 people, should be equipped with side-impact protection devices and taken off the road if they are more than 10 years old, according to a New York task force convened to study safety problems with the oversized vehicles.

The report, submitted Friday to the state’s governor and legislature, also recommended that limo drivers get more training and that passengers get a pre-trip safety demonstration, like the kind people get on airplanes, showing how to use seatbelts and escape a vehicle after a crash.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration intends to take “swift action” to implement the recommendations, said her spokesperson, Will Burns.

State officials convened the task force to study oversized limos in the aftermath of the deadliest U.S. transportation accident of the past 13 years.

On Oct. 6, 2018, a Ford Excursion SUV, which had been turned into a stretch limo, carrying a group of friends to a birthday celebration sped out of control on a hill and drove into a gully in Schoharie, New York. The driver and 17 passengers were killed, along with two pedestrians.

State authorities said the limousine had brake problems and passengers shouldn’t have been allowed to ride in it. The National Transportation Safety Board issued a report saying that while the owner’s “egregious disregard for safety” likely caused the brake failure, ineffective state oversight also played a role.

The limo’s operator had been able to keep the vehicle on the road even after it repeatedly failed safety inspections.

Lawmakers and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed a package of limo safety legislation, but the task force was convened to study other possible changes. Among the task force’s new recommendations was that stretch limos be taken out of service after 350,000 miles.

David Brown, owner of Albany-based limousine service Premiere Transportation and one of the 11 members of task force, said his “biggest takeaway” from the report was a recommendation for better communication between state agencies responsible for enforcing commercial vehicle safety.

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Maysoon Khan is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Maysoon Khan on Twitter.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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