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Foss: NTSB Schoharie limo crash report useful, maddening

Foss: NTSB Schoharie limo crash report useful, maddening

Foss: NTSB Schoharie limo crash report useful, maddening
Emergency personnel respond to the scene of the October 2018 Schoharie limousine crash.
Photographer: GAZETTE FILE PHOTOGRAPH

Nauman Hussain has a lot to answer for. 

The 29-year-old operator of Prestige Limousine will go to trial next year in connection with the devastating limousine accident that killed 20 people on a rural stretch of highway in Schoharie County last October. 

It's a compelling case, one that many of us are already following with great interest. 

And Hussain, who is accused of putting passengers in an aging stretch limo that failed inspections, had faulty brakes and shouldn't have been on the road, is easy to villainize. 

But this shouldn't obscure the fact that responsibility for the accident's high death toll goes beyond Hussain and his alleged misdeeds.

The National Transportation Safety Board report released Wednesday suggests that some of the passengers might have survived the crash, had they been wearing seat belts. 

Unfortunately, state law doesn't require rear-seat passengers to use seat belts. And the limousine's seat belt system was inadequate and inaccessible. 

"The passenger seat belt systems in the Schoharie crash limousine were poorly designed and would not have provided adequate protection," the NTSB report notes. Most of the seat belts were "under the bench seats and invisible to passengers." 

The agency recommendations requiring that seat belts in stretch limousines meet minimum performance standards, and that the state Department of Transportation ensure that seat belts in limousines are accessible and functional as part of the inspection process. 

Also: the state should require all passengers in a vehicle to wear seat belts. Right now, only front seat riders and back-seat passengers younger than 16 are required to wear seat belts. 

The NTSB report is informative and useful. 

It's also maddening. 

We've known for decades that seat belts save lives, so why wasn't the limousine in the Schoharie County crash equipped with a better seat belt system? This isn't a deficiency we can pin on Hussain.  

The failure to ensure that stretch limos have properly functioning seat belt systems is a government failure - one that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should remedy as quickly as possible. 

It shouldn't take a catastrophe to make vehicle safety a priority. 

But that's what's happened. 

The common-sense regulations recommended by the NTSB are too late for the victims of the Schoharie County limousine accident. 

But they might save someone else. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.   

 

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