Stretch limousines are intended to enhance a party atmosphere during bachelor and birthday parties and other celebrations. But a fatal 2018 limousine crash cost the lives of 20 people in Schoharie County and revealed these limousines potential for commercial vehicle accidents. The National Transportation Safety Board also issued a report this month criticizing New York’s insufficient regulation of these vehicles.
The accident occurred when the limousine was traveling to a brewery in Cooperstown on Oct. 6, 2018. After its brakes failed on a hilly stretch of state route 30A, the vehicle crashed into a country store parking lot outside Schoharie.
The NTSB determined that the limousine reached speeds over 100 mph coming down the hill before it sped into the parking lot, struck a parked SUV, and crashed into a ravine. The limo driver, its 17 passengers and two parking lot pedestrians were killed in the crash.
The NTSB could not determine whether the driver tried to slow down the limousine by engaging a low gear. Limo drivers are taught to try to pull their vehicles over as soon as possible during the first indication of brake trouble because speeds may increase on downhill roads.
New York criticized
The NTSB concluded that the New York State Department of Transportation and its Department of Motor Vehicles bear responsibility for this fatal crash. The limousine’s owner repeatedly violated state law and was never authorized to operate a for-hire commercial passenger vehicle service in New York.
The NTSB reported that the company that owned the 2001 ford Excursion stretch limousine improperly registered it as a passenger vehicle for two years. It should have been registered as a bus because of its 19-person seating-capacity.
The NYSDMV did not verify information in its vehicle registration program which would have prevented this limousine from being be wrongly classified and improperly registered. This allowed the limousine owner to evade more through safety and inspection requirements. Enforcing these requirements, according to the NTSB, may have prevented this accident.
The NTSB also pointed out that this failure was unjustified. The NYSDMV had access to 15 years of previous registrations and an insurance document indicating that the limousine had a 16-person seating capacity along with other sources of information.
The NTSB cited statistical evidence of the NYSDMV’s insufficient enforcement effectiveness of motor carriers in the state. It also claimed that the State Police and the local district attorney did not fully cooperate with its investigation and blocked its access to some evidence.
Victims of these accidents or their families may be entitled to compensation and damages. Lawyers can help them pursue these rights in a lawsuit.