After a stretch limo carrying friends and family to a birthday party crashed in upstate New York, many are asking questions about the safety of limousines and other modified vehicles. The tragic accident claimed the lives of the driver and all 17 passengers on board, as well as two pedestrians at the scene. As the investigation into the fatal accident continues, what we have learned so far about is genuinely concerning.
The passengers in the stretch limo were celebrating the birthday of one of their friends. They hired a limousine to transport them to and from their destination, to prevent anyone from drinking and driving. They had no way of knowing the stretch limo they were riding in was likely never subjected to any crash tests or federal safety standards. Perhaps even more disturbing – their stretch limo failed inspection the previous month.
Federal Regulations and Limousines
Limousines are essentially cars and sports utility vehicles that are cut in half, modified, and elongated to accommodate additional passengers. While traditional vehicles are subject to strict federal safety and inspection standards, limos generally fall into a gray area where these regulations are concerned. Laws governing limo safety vary by state and are generally not as rigorous as those for regular cars.
While traditional passenger cars and SUVs are designed as “cages” in accordance with federal law to protect passenger in a collision, redesigned limos and other modififed vehicles lose this crucial protective structure. Side rollover pillars and airbags are often removed or rendered ineffective in the process of rebuilding limousines.
While auto manufacturers extensively test their vehicles in a controlled setting, limousines are usually not required to undergo this process. Limos are effectively regular cars that have been purchased by third-party companies, cut up, extended, and sent on their way without undergoing this crucial crash testing.
Limousines and Passenger Behavior
Because of their size, limousine passengers often have a false sense of security while riding in them. Combine that casual attitude toward safety with the festive environment limos tend to foster, and many passengers forego their seatbelts.
None of the passengers in the fatal upstate New York stretch limousine accident appear to have been wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash. In a collision, not only do unrestrained passengers risk ejection from the vehicle; they also become deadly weapons as they become airborne and hurl through the cabin.
Controlling a Limousine in a Crash
In addition to the lack of safety testing and lax passenger behavior, limousine passengers are at greater risk of an accident simply because longer vehicles are harder to control in a collision. Design principals used to create stable vehicles no longer apply to a vehicle that has been chopped and stretched. As the mass of the stretch limo changes, so do the vehicle dynamics, making it unpredictable and more difficult to maintain in an accident.
An owner/operator who knows their vehicle failed inspection and allows it to be driven is negligent. Unfortunately, change will come too late for the families involved in this crash, but what we learn from this accident will potentially save many other lives.
Columbia Car Accident Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Fight for Injured Victims
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by negligence, a Columbia car accident lawyer at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. can help. We know how devastating a serious car accident can be and we will fight for the compensation you deserve to rebuild your life. To learn more about your legal options after a car accident, call 803-929-3600 or contact us online today.
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