Many kids grow up dreaming that one day they would be rich and famous, traveling to red carpets in a limousine. News of a limousine crash, leaving 20 people dead in its wake, is leaving us wondering how something so horrific could happen in a luxury vehicle. On October 7th, a family hired a limousine to safely take them drinking at an Upstate New York Brewery. What seemed like a smart and sensible decision led to the deaths of 20 people. How could something like this happen?
Cheap Limousines Can be “Frankenstein” Monsters
Surprisingly, many stretch limos weren’t originally manufactured to be limousines. An SUV, Station-wagon or other vehicle is sometimes literally “cut in half,” with the front and rear completely separated. The body of the original car is then extended on the sides, top and bottom. Seats can then be added along the sides. And then Voila! A car that would’ve normally seated 9 can now hold 18. Often, there are not enough seat belts or airbags for all passengers.
When a car is manufactured, it abides by standards set by results from crash tests, experiments and statistics. All of these factors play a role in how the the vehicle is built and are done to protect occupants of a vehicle should a crash occur. When a vehicle is converted into a stretch limousine, more often than not, it is done by mechanics – not through the original manufacturers. This is problematic because all of those safety measures that originally went into building the car do not necessarily offer protection when it comes to the modified version. How can it, if you’re now dealing with new factors such as length, mass and weight? The lack of safety measures in place, coupled with the tendency of occupants to remain unrestrained in a limousine, can lead to a very dangerous situation, as was the case with the accident on Sunday.
Unfortunately, there are not many federal regulations when it comes to stretch limos. In New York State, a stretch limousine that holds more than 10 people (including the driver) is classified as a bus and as such, must abide by those standards. There is a lack of regulation enforcement, as many of these pieced together limousines are registered with their original VIN number.
If you are a billionaire rock star, ask your butler to make sure your Bentley has recently been checked out. If you are not a rock star, start with the “no free lunch,” rule. If the price for a “limo” is too good to be true, it’s likely the company is cutting corners. Here are some questions to ask before booking a limo, and if you already have one booked for an upcoming event, call and follow-up with them regarding safety issues..
Things to DO Before Booking a Limo:
Check to make sure that the company is registered with the state’s governing body for limo services. The Taxi & Limousine Commission takes care of this in New York City
Ask for the make and model of the car you are renting, and if any modifications have been made to the vehicle.
Ask whether the company requires drivers to take a drug test. Good companies are on top of this and make this a regular requirement
If possible, go see the limo beforehand to make sure it meets expectations. While there you can check to see if the vehicle has been inspected according to New York State regulations.
Make sure the limousine has seat belts for all passengers, roll-over prevention, 3-point restraints, and side-panel airbags (in the case of a stretch limo).
Find out if the chauffeur you have scheduled is licensed to drive the vehicle you’re requesting.
In addition to the precautions outlined above, wearing seat belt during the trip, though restrictive, can help prevent fatalities.