Converted Limousines Need Stricter Safety Rules, Report Finds

Converted Limousines Need Stricter Safety Rules, Report Finds

- in Automotive
47
0

Thomas J. Spota, the Suffolk County district attorney, in March, discussing the 2015 crash.

Credit
Johnny Milano for The New York Times

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — Cars converted into stretch limousines often lack lifesaving safety components like side-impact airbags, reinforced rollover protection bars and accessible emergency exits, according to a special grand jury that looked into a limousine crash that killed four women leaving a Long Island winery last year.

The grand jury’s 156-page report, which called for better safety regulations for stretch limousines, examined some of the issues raised by a July 2015 crash in which a limousine leaving a winery in Cutchogue tried to make a U-turn and was struck by a pickup truck.

Limousines built in factories are already required to meet stringent safety regulations, but when cars are converted into limos, safety features are sometimes removed, leading to gaps in safety protocols, the grand jury wrote.

The panel, convened by the Suffolk County district attorney, said some limousine companies had falsified paperwork with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to avoid more stringent inspections required for buses, which under the law are any vehicles that can carry 11 or more passengers.

“Without sufficient safety standards in place, it is nothing but a fine line between a stretch limousine and a hearse,” said the district attorney, Thomas J. Spota.

The panel called on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to assemble a task force on limousine safety and report its findings to the National Transportation Safety Board. The safety board had said in September 2015 that it would investigate limousine crashes on a case-by-case basis.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo said the governor would review the proposal. The safety board did not immediately comment.

The limousine involved in the 2015 crash on Long Island was originally built as a Lincoln Town Car and was “cut in half and then stretched” to accommodate 10 occupants, the report said.

Brittany M. Schulman, 23, of Smithtown; Lauren Baruch, 24, of Smithtown; Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park; and Amy R. Grabina, 23, of Commack, were killed in the crash. Four other women and the limo driver were hospitalized.

Prosecutors have said that the limousine driver’s view was blocked by a Jeep turning in front of him but that he “failed to take any precaution or action to make sure he could safely enter the westbound traffic lanes” and made a U-turn without stopping.

A police accident reconstruction specialist found “there wasn’t enough space at the intersection for the limo to be able to make a proper U-turn,” the report said.

The limousine driver, Carlos F. Pino, and the driver of the pickup truck were arrested after the crash, although criminal charges against Mr. Pino were dismissed after a judge found there had been improper grand jury testimony in the case. Prosecutors have vowed to appeal the ruling. The pickup truck driver, Steven Romeo, has pleaded not guilty to drunken-driving charges.

Continue reading the main story

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like

Amazon Chooses 20 Finalists for Second Headquarters

Hans Riemer, president of the Montgomery County Council,