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Limousine safety starts with inspection enforcement

January 17, 2019 10:08 pm

Limousine operators in the Twin Counties generally came out in support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed ban on rebuilt stretch limousines, but they expressed a lurking fear that a ban would mothball a good portion of their fleets.

David Brown, owner of Albany’s Premiere Transportation, which serves Columbia County, expected some action would be taken in the aftermath of the Schoharie limousine crash that killed 20 people, but he didn’t anticipate an overall ban.

Brown worries that the ban will punish transport companies that play by the rules. “Why are we throwing out the baby with the bath water with these cars Ford already approved?” Brown said. “We’re kind of scratching our heads.”

Coxsackie Transport owner Wayne Parks, who supports the governor’s proposal, said the lone limousine in his fleet was built in a factory under specific regulations. Stretching the frame of a limousine has to be done in a controlled setting, he said.

“It’s a big thing when you’re stretching a frame on a vehicle. It affects everything,” he said.

Brown said it’s obvious the governor did not consult with livery companies and the National Limousine Association on the proposed law. “I understand the concern, but I don’t think it’s being approached right,” he said.

A law alone won’t solve the safety problems. Prestige Limousine Services flouted motor vehicle law when the company allowed the Schoharie limo to be on the road when it should have been decommissioned. The state needs to beef up vigilance and enforcement.

It’s encouraging that the governor is doing something to make limousine travel safer and keep unsafe vehicles permanently off the road. But whether an outright ban will, as David Brown said, penalize businesses that already follow stringent regulations and have excellent safety records is a question that has to be answered.

With every tragedy, the state acts, and sometimes it overreacts. The Prestige limousine, which failed one inspection after another, should not have been in operation, yet it was. State action should begin with enforcing inspection results making sure companies understand there are consequences for failure. Only then will a ban make sense.