NY Governor Cuomo Wants Total Reform of Limo Regulations After 2018 Crash That Killed 20

Governor Cuomo's New York State budget proposal includes reforms on large passenger vehicle operation, inspection, and penalties for non-adherence.

Tom Heffernan Sr. via AP

Governor Andrew Cuomo (NY-D) announced safety reforms regarding limousines and large passenger vehicles Tuesday to be included in the 2019 executive budget. 

The proposed adjustments are largely focused on protecting the public from unsafe vehicles, giving Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles authorities more power to do so, and holding those who don’t adhere to the new standards more accountable. Cuomo’s reforms are in wake of last year’s tragic limo crash in Schoharie County which left 20 people dead and became the deadliest domestic transportation accident since 2009.

“This crash was a horrific tragedy that shocked this state to its very core,” said Cuomo. “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.”

The statutory reforms comprising Cuomo’s proposal include:

  • A full ban on registering remanufactured limousines and prohibiting their use in New York State
  • Requiring drivers to have a commercial driver’s license with a special passenger endorsement, should they choose to use it as a for-hire vehicle with eight or more passengers
  • Making it a felony to remove an out of service sticker from a DOT inspector without having the vehicle re-inspected and cleared by the DOT, and raising the penalty for doing so to a maximum fine of $25,000 per violation for anyone caught operating an uncleared vehicle
  • Implementing more stringent registration suspension and vehicle impoundment authority, which would also give the DOT Commissioner the power to immediately suspend a driver’s operating authority if circumstances are deemed to directly jeopardize the health, safety, or welfare of the public
  • Authorizing both the DOT and DMV authority to seize suspended license plates
  • Making it a felony for a vehicle owner or operator to remove or tamper with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard tag or vehicle inspection sticker
  • Ensuring that vehicle impoundment happens for felony violations purposes and that multiple violators are subject to the civil forfeiture of their vehicle
  • Making it mandatory for inspection stations to report an attempt at unauthorized inspection to the DMV
  • Establishing new criminal penalties for an illegal, faulty DMV-regulated inspection
  • Prohibiting U-turns for larger vehicles on every road in the state
  • Eliminating seatbelt exceptions for limousines, taxis, buses, liveries, and school buses
  • Creating a $120 DOT inspection fee for any relevant vehicles

In addition to Cuomo’s concerns about vehicle safety in the state, his state budget proposal includes a new congestion toll on vehicles heading below 60th Street in Manhattan starting in 2021, as the revenue being lost could assist in subway upgrades and repairs, according to Syracuse. Additional infrastructure concerns regard repairs of highways, airports, and rail station facilities such as Penn Station. 

Ultimately, establishing more stringent regulation on these vehicles, businesses, and drivers is likely to keep people on their best operating behavior, and thereby logically raise a certain amount of safety. Whether or not these proposed penalties are the most effective method of preventing another tragic accident like last year’s deadly limo crash is uncertain. Imposing stricter seatbelt laws, preventing larger vehicles from making U-turns, and curbing illegal inspection rates, however, genuinely seem like honest efforts to keep people safe and businesses alert.