A recent deadly crash in Long Island of a limousine carrying eight women has brought attention to the modifications of “stretch” limousine vehicles and their inability to provide protection for passengers in side impact crashes. Federal officials have agreed to investigate limousine accidents and evaluate the safety requirements currently in place to regulate how these vehicles are modified in aftermarket facilities.
The modification requirements for stretch limousine and bus vehicles currently are not specific, leaving great variation in the way these vehicles are transformed once they leave a manufacturer. For example, some vehicles have three steel reinforcement bars in the side panels, but others, in order to save time and cost, may have only one. Many vehicles lack basic safety protections, including not enough side impact air bags, rollover bars, and appropriate exits. Often times the changes made are for superficial reasons, leaving little concern for the safety cost of the change, such as removing a side exit to lengthen the seating area of a vehicle. When a limo or bus leaves the manufacturing floor it has passed all of the required federal tests necessary to protect drivers and passengers. However, these same limos are often taken to aftermarket shops where they are stretched, modified, or changed, leaving safety standards at risk and both drivers and passengers in danger.
Since the deadly crash in Long Island, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer has been very outspoken about the need for greater safety standards for stretch limousines. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has heeded his call and agreed to investigate future limousine accidents as they occur on a case-by-case basis. This agreement is critical as it lays the groundwork for the NTSB to formally issue safety recommendations for altered stretch limousines. Combined with already available data, these recommendations can be used to place additional requirements and safeguard on altered stretch limousines.
Stretch limousines are most often used by passengers on monumental occasions, such as weddings, proms, birthdays, and anniversaries. Many passengers are completely unaware of the risk of traveling in one of these vehicles and what little protection it would actually provide in a crash. 1 in 4 accidents involving stretch limos are side-impacting. Despite this fact, side airbags and other protections are requirements left absent during the secondary alteration of limousines. The deadly crash in Long Island was caused by a pick up truck crashing into the side of a stretch limo traveling to Wine Country, killing four women and severely injuring the other four. Had their vehicle had side airbags, rollover bars, or more bolstering in the doors, the women might have survived.
Passengers of stretch limousine and other special event vehicles should be free to enjoy their exciting life moments without having to worry about the unregulated safety of their transportation. If you want to learn more about the changes the NTSB is making to increase passenger protection, contact Thomas Law Offices for more information.