Central New York, Consumer, Public Safety, Transportation

Before You Use A Limo Service, Make Sure You Know These Tips

(c) 2018 Giulia Milana

Video transcript: Milana_LimoSafety_10Oct18

By Giulia Milana SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – People all over the country are still in shock following Sunday’s tragic limousine accident in Schoharie, killing 20 people and making it the deadliest transportation accident in nearly a decade.

State Police said that the limousine involved in the crash, a 2001 Ford Excursion, failed safety inspections last month and shouldn’t have even been on the road. The New York State Department of Transportation requires an inspection every six months and is a very rigorous process.

“Every single safety component is checked out- lights, exhaust pipes, engines, drive shafts, interior safety features like seatbelts and emergency exits, steering components,” said Michael Donohue, the general manager at American Limousine. “Every facet of that vehicle is checked over by a member of the DOT, which is an inspector that has vast experience with these types of situations. And after that, it’s up to the owner of the vehicle or the operator to fix any deficiencies that are found during that process.”

Donohue believes that the tragedy could’ve been prevented, and he feels strongly about getting proper information out to the public, now more than ever, on what they should do as aware consumers.

“I can’t express how important it is to go and look at the vehicle that you are actually renting,” Donohue said.  “I encourage everyone to look at the vehicle and not just reserve it.”

Donohue said that there are three important things to do when inspecting a limousine you are interested in reserving:

  • Look for a DOT Inspection Sticker. The sticker is bright green and should be on the vehicle’s windshield. Any car that can carry over ten passengers will have this sticker. If it doesn’t, it was not inspected or had failed its inspection.
  • Look at the vehicle capacity number. Every vehicle under the Department of Transportation is required to have that number printed on the car.  Because the vehicle is large does not mean it can actually fit a large number of people. Donohue said once you overload the vehicles, safety protocols go out the window.
  • Look at the license plate. The license plate should say either “bus” or “livery.” A vehicle with one of those plates means that the operator has the appropriate license to operate that vehicle and that there is proper insurance in place if something should happen. If you’ve hired a car that shows up with passenger plates, it is operating illegally.

If you are unable to look at the vehicle beforehand, Donohue recommends doing research on the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) System. You are able to look up any operator through their name or USDOT number and see their inspection records, going as far back as ten years. Donohue said that it’s important to look at the Out of Service Rate, which is the number of vehicles that were submitted for inspection and the amount that actually failed the inspection.

“If the number is higher than the national average, you need to ask yourself a question,” Donohue said. “Should I use this company? Or should I try to use someone with a better record?”

Prestige Limousine owned the vehicle that was involved in the accident in Schoharie. If you look at their company on the SAFER System, their Out of Service rate was 80%, nearly four times the national average. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating what exactly caused the crash.

“If they had they done their due diligence, this accident would’ve never, ever happened,” Donohue said. “That’s the hardest part that I have in putting my arms around right now because it was such a preventable incident. I’m hoping that people will look at this, educate themselves in the future, and not make the same mistake.”

If you see this yellow sticker on the vehicle's windshield next to the DOT Inspection Sticker, it means that the operator voluntarily requested an inspection before it was due.