Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY-20), and Congressman Antonio Delgado (D-NY-19) announced today they will be introducing a set of bills to enhance limousine safety in response to last year’s tragic accident in Schoharie, NY. The crash caused the death of 20 people, making it the deadliest transportation accident in the United States since 2009. This comprehensive package of legislation will close gaps in the law to ensure modified limousines meet federal safety standards, strengthen inspection requirements, and direct research to guide further updates to limousine safety regulations. Find a full explanation of the bills below. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand will be introducing companion legislation in the Senate.
“One year ago, tragedy struck Upstate New York when 20 lives were lost in a horrific auto accident,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “While the investigation is still ongoing, NTSB’s recent recommendations make it clear that critical gaps in the federal standards are undermining the safety of passengers. Our proposal will close existing loopholes in the limousine safety standards and keep unsafe vehicles off our roads. I am looking forward to working with my New York colleagues on this comprehensive and bipartisan legislation to ensure such senseless tragedies never happen again.”
The SAFE Limos Act of 2019: Safety, Accountability, and Federal Enforcement
Safety Belt Standards for Limousines
Under current law, limousines with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 8,500 pounds are not required to have lap shoulder belts for every seating position. The SAFE Limos Act will require each new limousine to have lap and shoulder belts that meet minimum safety requirements for each designated seating position.
Seating System Standards for Limousines
Limousines manufacturers are not required to meet minimum safety standards for seats, their attachment assemblies, and their installation to minimize the possibility of seats failing during a crash. The SAFE Limos Act will require each new limousine to meet safety requirements for seat strength and integrity.
Retrofit Assessment for Existing Limousines
The SAFE Limos Act will require the Secretary of Transportation to evaluate the feasibility of retrofitting existing limousines with lap and shoulder belts and seat systems that meet minimum safety requirements.
Safety Standards for Altering Used Vehicles into Limousines
The modern limousine market is made up of several independent manufacturers that purchase and modify new or used vehicles into limousines. Under current law, a limousine manufacturer that modifies a new vehicle into a limousine must certify that the altered vehicle still conforms will federal safety standards, such as side impact protections and roof crush resistance. Modifiers of used vehicles (i.e., vehicles that have been sold at least once, other than for resale), however, are not required to certify that their vehicles meet federal safety standards. The SAFE Limos Act requires limousine manufacturers altering used vehicles to certify that the limousine meets federal safety standards.
Limousine Compliance with Federal Safety Standards
To assist limousine manufacturers in complying with federal safety standards, some automakers have created programs detailing what manufacturing limousine alterers should meet to ensure their altered motor vehicle complies with federal safety standards. Unfortunately, not all limousine alterers adhere to these programs. The SAFE Limos Act directs the Secretary of Transportation to develop and issue guidelines, best practices, and recommendations to assist a limousine alterer develop and administer a vehicle modifier plan. A limousine alterer is required to develop a vehicle modifier plan, subject to approval by the Secretary.
Limousine Crash Safety
Limousines are typically equipped with perimeter seating, in which the back of the seats lie against the interior of the passenger compartment. Such alternate seating arrangements can pose unique dangers to occupants. Further, side-impact protections are inconsistent across the limousine industry. The SAFE Limos Act directs NHTSA to conduct research into crashworthiness including side impact protection, roof crush resistance, and air bag system protections for all limousine occupants given alternative seating positions or interior configurations, including perimeter seating arrangements. NHTSA’s findings should inform vehicle modifier plans.
Rapid egress from a vehicle after a crash can make the difference between life and death. Pursuant to prior recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the SAFE Limos Act will direct NHTSA to conduct research and issue standards that can aid egress and regress in the event that one exit in the limousine’s passenger compartment is blocked.
Limousine Inspection Disclosure
The SAFE Limos Act will require a limousine operator introducing a limousine into interstate commerce to disclose:
- Date of the most recent inspection of the limousine required under state or federal law;
- The results of the inspection; and
- Any corrective action taken by the limousine operator to ensure the limousine passes inspection.
Event Data Recorders for Limousines
Event Data Recorders are devices installed in motor vehicles that collect valuable information about the nature of crashes to aid investigations. The SAFE Limos Act would require the use of Event Data Recorders for all new limousines.
The Take Unsafe Limos Off the Road Act
Impoundment or Immobilization of Limos that Fail Inspection
This act will create a new grant program to support states’ efforts to impound or immobilize vehicles that fail inspection for critical safety reasons. The New York State Assembly and Senate are working on legislation that allows for the immobilization or impoundment of limousines where such vehicle has an out-of-service defect or a defect related to its horn. The act will incentivize states like New York to take strong actions to keep unsafe limos that fail inspection off the road.
Annual State Limo Inspection Requirement
The act would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to restart a dormant rulemaking effort requiring states to inspect all commercial motor vehicles designed or used to transport passengers.
The End the Limo Loophole Act
Ensure Limos Comply with Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations
Currently, a Commercial Motor Vehicle is defined as one that is designed to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver. Vehicles that are altered post-manufacture to accommodate more than 15 passengers, as with many stretch limos, fall outside this definition. This act will amend the definition of a Commercial Motor Vehicle to ensure that it covers all vehicles used to transport more than 15 people so that critical federal safety rules, such as driver qualifications, apply regardless of the initial design.