The limousine that crashed in New York state in early October, killing 20 people, should not even have been on the road. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated days after the Oct. 6 accident that the vehicle had failed its latest safety inspection—and the driver did not even have the proper license.
The limousine itself was what some have called a “Frankenstein vehicle”—basically an SUV that has been cut in half and stretched out.
“When we look at limousines and stretch limos, we see a really Frankenstein system of cars that potentially are cut up and put back together with parts and pieces that were not original to them,” Deborah Hersman, president, and CEO of the nonprofit National Safety Council and former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, told Texas Public Radio. “And additionally, some things may be taken off — things like airbags or seat belts.”
Federal regulations don’t always apply, especially if the limousine never crosses state lines. That means that regulating the safety of limousines is up to state and local officials. So how safe are limos in Texas, and what do you need to look for when you rent one?
Texas regulates limousines the same way it does taxis, according to the Dallas Morning News. There are no statewide requirements from the Texas Department of Public Safety for hired drivers to obtain a special driver’s license, but each city may have its own requirements.
Dallas issues permits for both limousines and taxis, and vehicles must undergo annual safety inspections. Every two years, drivers are given a criminal background check and driving record review. Houston also requires permits and background checks. However, no city in Brazos County, including Bryan and College Station, issues limousine permits, and no background checks are required anywhere in the county, reports KBTX-TV.
In Texas, drivers are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) only if the limousine is a “super-stretch” model that carries 16 or more passengers (like the one in the New York accident). However, many limo companies require all their drivers to hold CDLs, no matter what kind of limousine they drive.
Make sure your limo has safety belts, which is the law in Texas. “All of the occupants being belted means that it’s safer for everyone,” Hersman told KBTX-TV. “When you have the dynamics of people colliding against hard surfaces and against each other in a crash, the outcomes can be significant.” The driver is responsible for enforcing seatbelt use and making sure the passengers are acting in a safe manner.
The law also mandates that the limousine be registered with the Texas Department of Transportation, with the registration number found on the vehicle.
The bottom line is that passengers will probably want to exercise caution and discretion in choosing a limousine company, especially in light of the recent tragedy. But if you or a loved one does become the victim of an auto accident involving a limousine, and the limo company has been negligent, you have the right to be compensated for your losses. Contact the experienced Texas personal injury attorneys at the Evans Law Firm for a free consultation.