State Senate passes several limousine safety bills following high profile crashes in recent years

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
Photo courtesy of NYS Senate Media Services

The state Senate on Tuesday passed a package of bills aimed at strengthening safety standards and oversight for limousines across the state, following a couple of high profile crashes involving the elongated vehicles over the past few years.

Bills in the package seek to align the state’s Safe Limo rating system more closely with federal protocols, create new limo retirement thresholds and add safety features like roll-over protections.

The legislation comes after two notable limo crashes in recent years: one that killed four women on Long Island in 2015; and another 2018 incident that claimed the lives of 20 people in the Capitol Region.

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins highlighted the legislative package during a news conference with the bill sponsors in the New York State Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. 

“Our state will never be made whole from the horrific limo crashes of 2015 and 2018,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “The least we can do is enact stronger, smarter regulations that will prevent these types of tragedies from happening in the future, while modeling first-rate safety protocols for other states and the Federal Government to follow. Every passenger and operator deserves to rent and enjoy limousines with the same level of trust as any other vehicle, and to know that the companies behind the scenes are being held to the letter of the law.”

While there currently aren’t companion bills for the package in the Assembly, a spokesperson for the majority leader said they expect the lower chamber to introduce and pass their own versions of the legislation.

John Lindsay, a spokesperson for Governor Kathy Hochul, said in an emailed statement that she’s also taken action on this issue by directing the Stretch Limousine Passenger Safety Task Force to draft recommendations for improving limousine safety, shortly after she took office in 2021. Additionally, he said, the state Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Transportation are working to implement guidance from a report issued by state Inspector General Lucy Lang last fall.

“October 6, 2018 was a dark day for New York. Twenty lives ended too soon, and the heartbreaking loss was felt across the country,” Lindsay said. “Governor Hochul will carefully review any legislation if it passes both houses, and will continue to work with our partners in the legislature to protect passengers.”

The Senate bills were drafted based on suggestions by the same task force, which the body convened in 2020 in response to the 2018 crash. The package also contains legislation that would extend the task force until December 2024.

One bill, S1371, would bring the state’s Safer Limo rating system more in-line with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER system. Another, S1443A, would implement a new limo retirement threshold at either 10 years or 350,000 miles on the road, whichever comes first.

Two pieces of legislation, S1442 and S1368, would add new safety features such as window break tools, fire extinguishers, rollover protections and “anti-intrusion devices” — like cages, pillars and bars.

“These comprehensive policies build on the meaningful limo reforms the Democratic Conference advanced and enacted in 2020, and are a direct reflection of the advocacy and determination of families of the victims involved in the limo crashes in Schoharie and Cutchogue,” said state Senator Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo), one of the bill sponsors, who chairs the upper chamber’s Transportation Committee. 

“By once again strengthening limo safety standards across New York State, we are ensuring passenger safety is prioritized, and creating greater oversight and accountability within the industry,” he added.