Who are going to be the next victims?
Another group on its way to celebrate their birthdays? A family out for a ride in the country to look at the foliage? A bunch of kids on a school bus?
Who? Who are going to be the next victims of a preventable tragedy in which inadequate or nonexistent government oversight was a contributing factor?
As we approach the second anniversary of the Oct. 6, 2018, limousine crash in Schoharie that killed 20 people, government officials need to be taking time to consider whether the safety regulations they have in place, and the procedures they use to enforce those regulations, are enough to prevent another tragedy.
Not just in vehicle safety, but other areas.
A report issued Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board about the Schoharie crash put the lion’s share of the blame for the accident rightly where it belongs – on the operator of the limousine company, who officials say deliberately placed an unsafe vehicle on the road.
But the report was also highly critical of two state agencies that were supposed to be watching out for trouble— the departments of Transportation and Motor Vehicles — for their shoddy enforcement and oversight of the industry. That includes not exercising authority they already had.
A bank security company doesn’t have to actually rob the bank to be responsible for the robbery if the alarms were turned off and its guard was asleep on the job.
If state agencies were falling down on the job inspecting limousines, they all should be asking themselves in what other areas of safety are they falling short?
What about school buses or long-haul trucks or construction or apartment buildings? Is the state doing enough to make sure that a tragedy in those and other areas isn’t just waiting to happen?
Over 15 months after the Schoharie crash, state lawmakers finally passed comprehensive legislation to improve safety in limos, such as giving the DOT more authority to remove vehicles with proven safety issues and seat belt requirements for passengers.
Why were these common sense safety measures not in place long ago?
It’s not enough for government officials to enforce existing laws or wait for a tragedy before coming up with new ones. They need to anticipate problems and act before something bad happens.
The next tragedy probably won’t be another limo crash. The state is on high alert for that. But are existing laws and regulations enough in other areas? Are there enough personnel in place, and are they doing their jobs effectively?
If the Schoharie tragedy should have taught us anything, it’s that government can never get complacent when it comes to the public’s safety.
We see all too clearly what happens when it does.