ALBANY -- Safety reforms for limousines and similar large passenger vehicles are being included in Gov. Cuomo's 2019 executive budget, his office said on Tuesday.
The proposals come just over three months after 20 people were killed in a stretch limousine crash in Schoharie. Eighteen people who were in the limo, and two pedestrians, died in the Oct. 6 crash. The limo service operator is facing charges that accuse him of keeping the limo on the road despite orders by police and state officials to take it out of service.
"This crash was a horrific tragedy that shocked this state to its very core," Cuomo said in a prepared statement announcing the proposed rules. "We are advancing reforms that will give aggressive new powers that will allow authorities to take dangerous vehicles off the roads without delay, hold unscrupulous businesses accountable and increase public safety in every corner of New York."
Cuomo's proposals come after federal lawmakers last month proposed changes to federal limo regulations.
The limousine involved in the Schoharie crash was owned by Prestige Limousine, of Wilton. It was a 2001 Ford Excursion that was stretched, after it was built, to hold up to 19 people. It repeatedly failed state commercial inspections, but it was exempt from federal manufacturing safety checks.
The limousine crashed after, for still-undetermined reasons, it sped through a stop sign at the intersection of state routes 30 and 30A at around 2 p.m. on the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend. It went through the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store and crashed into a small ravine; all involved, including two pedestrians in the parking lot, died from impact trauma, according to state police.
The October crash has also been the subject recently of a dispute between the NTSB and the local prosecutor over access to the limo for the NTSB investigation of the crash. The state has also seized limo license plates from other companies' limousines in the wake of the crash.
The list of proposals released by Cuomo's office on Tuesday:
- An outright ban on the registration of remanufactured limousines, prohibiting their operation in New York State;
- Require drivers to hold a Commercial driver license with a special passenger endorsement to operate a for-hire vehicle with eight or more passengers;
- Make it a felony to remove an out-of-service sticker placed on a vehicle by a DOT inspector without having the vehicle re-inspected and cleared by DOT to return to service;
- Increase the civil penalty to a maximum fine of $25,000 per violation for any person found operating with suspended DOT operating authority or operating a vehicle without such authority and subject such persons to felony prosecution;
- Establish stronger registration suspension and vehicle impoundment powers, including an explicit process for immediate suspension of operating authority by the DOT Commissioner in circumstances that endanger the health, safety and welfare of the public;
- Explicitly authorize DOT and DMV to seize suspended license plates;
- Make it a felony for any owner/operator to tamper with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard tag or vehicle inspection sticker;
- Ensure vehicle impoundment occurs for purposes of felony violations and subject multiple violators to the potential for civil forfeiture of vehicle;
- Require mandatory reporting by inspection stations to DMV if a vehicle attempts an unauthorized inspection;
- Create new criminal penalties for any DMV-regulated inspection station that illegally issues an inspection sticker;
- Prohibit U-turns for larger vehicles on all roads within the state;
- Eliminate the exception to seatbelt requirements for limousines, buses, taxis, liveries and school buses;
- Establish a DOT inspection fee of $120 per inspection for vehicles subject to such inspection.