While city talks about truck fatalities, Albany votes on limousine safety regs

Photo by Mark Hallum

As New York City street safety advocates look back on a bloody 2019 full of pedestrian and cyclist deaths resulting from collisions with large trucks, the state Assembly voted Tuesday to tighten regulations on limousines.

In an attempt prevent wrecks like the Schoharie limousine crash in 2018 that killed 20 people, Legislators are putting their foot down about for-hire vehicles failing state inspections as well as cracking down on drug and alcohol use for operators.

It’s the kind of legislation that city government hopes to replicate and bring down the number of fatal incidents in 2019 in which truck drivers fatally hit cyclists and pedestrians.

Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez held a roundtable Tuesday with leaders from the city departments of Sanitation and Transportation – among others – to adopt two safety measures practiced in some other countries, but not the U.S.

Side guards on trucks and sensors alerting the drivers to a human presence would save lives, Rodríguez said.

“The first [initiative] is to call on the national truck manufacturers who sell truck in Europe and the United States to install sensor all around the trucks so that driver are given images of pedestrians and cyclists, especially when they turn,” Rodríguez said.

The councilman claimed one roundtable suggestion was that DOT should explore making turns of any kind at four-way stops illegal unless signaled.

The roundtable comes after a 10-year-old boy was killed by city sanitation truck in Queens last week as they were walking to school.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the package of 10 bills altogether to boost street safety makes good on promises made – and set aside in the state budget – in 2019.

“These regulations build on the work we did last year in the budget, and will hold the industry accountable, saving lives and making our roads safer for everyone,” Heastie said.

Here are some of the ways Albany will keep better oversight of the limousine industry.

  • Create new criminal penalties for operating a commercial vehicle knowing its registration is suspended for violating DOT safety regulations, or for operating without DOT authority;
  • Authorize DOT to seize the license plates of stretch limousines that fail inspection and are placed out of service, and clarify the authority of DOT to seize the license plates of all non-personal vehicles owned by a person found in violation of DOT safety regulations or operating without DOT authority;
  • Prohibit the DMV from registering vehicles failing to comply with federal motor vehicle safety certificate label requirements and impose penalties on a person tampering with or illegally affixing such labels; and
  • Require stretch limo owner/operators to display valid operating authority, inspection information and driver qualifications, both where business is conducted and inside the vehicles.

As the Assembly announced this milestone, the Senate transportation committee also approved the bill to move forward through the chamber.

Mark Hallum