EDITORIAL: Limo laws: What took so long?

Crash was a year ago, but legislation still hasn't been passed to improve limousine safety

It’s been a whole year since the Schoharie limousine crash that killed 20 innocent people.

A whole year in which state and federal lawmakers could have enacted reforms to the limousine industry that could have made it safer for the next wedding party or bachelor party or prom party to trust the safety of the limousines they ride in.

A whole year in which our elected representatives hemmed and hawed and debated and discussed, but did very little. 

A whole year wasted.

So perhaps we should be grateful that the one-year anniversary of the crash coincided with a report issued this week by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on the contributing factors to the crash — a coincidence that can’t be ignored by even the most inattentive politicians.

It might be this confluence of events, almost 365 days after these 20 preventable deaths occurred, that finally gets our government officials to take action. 

Among the major conclusions of the NTSB report was that the seatbelts in the limo were inaccessible and poorly designed, which essentially prevented the passengers from using them. Given the condition of the passenger compartment of the vehicle,

it’s clear that had the passengers been wearing seatbelts, some or all of them might have survived the crash.

Wow. Seatbelts save lives? Did we really need to wait a year for a report to learn that?

On Thursday, a bunch of federal lawmakers — including U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and area Reps. Antonio Delgado, Paul Tonko and Elise Stefanik introduced three safety bills — the SAFE Limos Act, the Take Unsafe Limos Off The Road Act and the End the Limo Loophole Act.

Among the issues the legislation would address are safety belts, standards for side-impact and roof protection, air-bag protections and evacuation protocols.

On Wednesday, when the report came out, state Sen. Jim Tedisco, a strong supporter of tougher safety legislation, called on the state Legislature to come back into session early to pass a package of bills that would improve limousine safety.

We’ve editorialized, apparently to deaf ears, for lawmakers to quickly pass common-sense bills to increase penalties for illegal U-turns and other traffic violations, mandatory drug and alcohol testing for drivers, to authorize the state to impound limos that failed inspections and other legislation. We also called on the state Transportation Department to lower the speed limit at the crash site, again to no avail.

We’re glad our government officials are finally taking action to prevent the next limousine tragedy.

But they didn’t need an official report to act upon.

Before doing something to safe lives, they didn’t need to let a whole year go by.

A whole year to take action. Wasted.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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