Twin Tiers residents getting ready for a group outing along one of the Finger Lakes Wine Trails, or planning a wedding or some other special occasion, can feel safer this month renting from a limousine service after New York State adopted new, tougher regulations for its limo industry. Many limo services, anticipating the new laws and trying to reassure consumers, have already invested in making their fleets safer.
If you’re going to hire a limo service, be sure to ask questions about their vehicles before making a deal. Do they have seatbelts for all passengers? Has the vehicle been inspected? Is the driver licensed and trained to operate a limousine?
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation on Feb. 3, after a lot of lobbying and negotiating in Albany, in response to an Oct. 6, 2018, stretch limo crash in Schoharie, N.Y., near Albany, that killed 20 people, including all 17 passengers in the limo.
State officials said the limousine crashed because of what they called “catastrophic brake failure.”
The New York Legislature passed the 10 bills on Jan. 14 that cleared the way for Cuomo’s signing. The Schoharie crash is considered the deadliest U.S. transportation crash in a decade.
“These far-reaching reforms deliver much-needed protections that will help keep dangerous vehicles off our roadways, crack down on businesses that do not prioritize safety and will give New Yorkers peace of mind when they enter a limo in this state,” Cuomo said in a statement.
The owner of the limo company, Nauman Hussain, is facing 20 counts of Second-Degree Manslaughter and 20 counts of Criminally Negligent Homicide. The state alleges that he did not keep the limo safe and avoided attempts by the state to keep it off the road.
The 17 passengers who were killed included four sisters, three of their husbands, and friends and family. They were celebrating a birthday. The driver and two pedestrians were also killed.
Here is a summary of what’s in the new laws:
- Starting in 2021, stretch limousines must have at least two safety belts in the front seat and at least one safety belt in the rear for each passenger. All current limos that need to retrofit seatbelts have until Jan. 1, 2023.
- The law expands seatbelt requirements in for-hire vehicles such as taxis. All people over age 8 years old must wear seatbelts.
- Limousine drivers with nine or more passengers, including the driver, will have to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
- The state can impound or immobilize stretch limousines until they pass a new inspection, with fines up to $10,000.
- Drivers will be fined $250 to $400 and could get up to 15 days in jail if they make illegal turns. The fines could increase to $600 to $750, and drivers could get up to 45 days in jail, if there is a second violation within 18 months.
- Stretch limousines will have to use GPS technology designed for commercial vehicles, once they are created by federal standards.
- There will be a telephone hotline so people can report safety issues with stretch limousines, and there will be a new safe limo website.
- Every motor carrier will be required to provide the state Department of Motor Vehicles a list of each altered motor vehicle designed to carry nine or more passengers.
- There will be a stretch limousine passenger safety task force to review the industry.
- Vehicle drivers and motor carriers will be subject to pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing.
Thank you for reading,
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 & 2019 Lawyer of the Year”