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EDITORIAL: Honor limo crash victims by preventing next crash

EDITORIAL: Honor limo crash victims by preventing next crash

No-show senators can still do something to help victims and families
EDITORIAL: Honor limo crash victims by preventing next crash
The memorial to the Schoharie limo crash victims as seen in April
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

If you go to a hearing and no one is there to hear you, can you still make a difference?

We’re about to find out.

Last week, family members of victims of last October’s limousine crash in Schoharie that killed 20 people and those from a 2015 limousine crash on Long Island that killed four went before the state Senate Transportation Committee and told their heartbreaking stories about how the tragedy affected them.

The hearing was designed to get input on possible state legislation to prevent a repeat of those tragedies. 

But only one of the 15 committee members bothered to show up, Chairman Timothy Kennedy. (Sen. Jim Tedisco, who is not a committee member, also attended along with a Long Island senator.)

This hearing should have been a must-attend forum for all the committee members, not only to show respect and sympathy for the victims and their families, but to glean information that might help them write legislation and regulations to prevent future crashes.

While it’s far too late for the absent senators to make up for their discourtesy, they can make up for their absence by passing the kind of safety laws and regulations that family members wish had been in place before last October.

There are number of bills lawmakers should consider. One, the Stretch Limousine Safety Act (A1974), contains half-a-dozen safety provisions, including minimum liability insurance for operators, requiring stretch limos be retired after 10 years, a prohibition against vehicles that fail inspections, mandatory safety training for drivers, and notifications posted on limos when the vehicles have passed or failed inspections.

Other bills address individual issues. 

One (A1321/S3024) would require passengers to wear seat-belts. Another (A3286/S5405) would require potential drivers to submit to federal criminal background checks.

Another (A5774) would require a state safety review of stretch limo inspections and driver licenses and driving records. It also would establish a searchable database with the results of inspections and driver information. Bill A6054 would prohibit limos from making dangerous U-turns.

Lawmakers could also address concerns raised by the industry about improving communication between state agencies that could have led to this company’s inspection record being flagged and the vehicle taken off the road.

Lawmakers should have honored the victims by attending last week’s hearing.

They can still honor them — by doing what needs to be done to ensure no other victims die the way these victims died and that no other families suffer the way they have suffered.

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