We hate to sound like a broken record here, but what does the state of New York have against addressing the issues related to the fatal limousine crash that killed 20 people in 2018?
First, it took the state Legislature a full year and three months to pass legislation to make limousines safer, and to make the inspection and repair standards more rigorous.
Now, despite obvious problems with the design and signage on the stretch of road where the crash took place — illustrated once again last week by frustrated residents who live near and drive on that road every day — the state still refuses to act.
If you’re looking up from your yard at a cracked tree branch hanging over your roof, you don’t wait two years for criminal court cases and engineering reports to be completed before getting that thing out of there. In this case, one giant branch has already crashed through the ceiling, and other fragile limbs are just waiting to fall next.
Do you wait for the next tragedy, or do take action now before it’s too late?
At a meeting in Schoharie on Thursday night, residents and business owners from around the crash site expressed concerns to three state legislators about the speed of traffic and increasing traffic levels, both of which jeopardize motorist and pedestrian safety. One first responder who spoke at the meeting recalled the numerous accidents he’s responded to at that intersection over the years, articulating how terrible the sightlines are for motorists there.
Just because the state has identified other contributing factors to the fatal limousine crash doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem with the intersection where it occurred.
And just because the legal issues haven’t been settled — including the criminal case against the operator of the limo service and pending and future lawsuits by the families of the victims — doesn’t mean the state is required to sit on its hands and wait for them to be done before taking action.
The criminal case isn’t scheduled to resume until May, and any civil litigation could drag out for months or years.
The state Department of Transportation has in its possession information about safety reviews of the intersection. This information could help cement the citizens’ case for changes on the roadway. But the DOT has repeatedly denied access to those records, sought under the state Freedom of Information Law, to media organizations, including The Gazette, citing the ongoing investigations.
Even though they’re legally entitled to withhold certain conclusions drawn from their investigations, the statistical information they have can and should be released.
Last week’s meeting was hosted by Assemblyman Chris Tague, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara and Sen. James Seward, who say they want to bring the residents’ safety concerns to the DOT hoping it helps pry open some information and spur some action. Certainly, another push couldn’t hurt.
But the residents’ concerns, experiences and observations are already well-known to state officials.
Why are improvements taking so long to enact?
What is it going to take to move officials to do something?
When is the next big branch going to come crashing down?