October Tragedy That Left 20 Dead Up In Schoharie County Motivates Governor To Get Serious On Industry In Need Of Makeover

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has included safety reforms for limousines in his state budget proposal in response to the October crash of a stretch limo that killed 20 people in an upstate town.

In the spending plan he released Tuesday afternoon, the Democrat said he wants stricter limo and large passenger vehicle regulations.

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“This crash was a horrific tragedy that shocked this state to its very core,” Cuomo said of the Oct. 6 wreck in Schoharie County. “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.”

A 2011 Ford Excursion limousine was traveling on Route 30 in Schoharie on Oct. 6, 2018, when it failed to stop at an intersection with Route 30-A, crashed into an empty SUV and killed 17 passengers, the driver and two pedestrians. (credit: CBS2)

Cuomo’s proposals include a ban on reconfigured limos like the modified SUV that crashed into a store’s parking lot in Schoharie, killing the driver, 17 passengers and two pedestrians.

Prosecutors have charged the operator of the limo company with criminally negligent homicide, alleging he allowed an improperly licensed driver to operate a vehicle deemed unserviceable by state inspectors.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

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The Schoharie wreck happened a little more than three years after four young women were killed in a limo crash on Long Island.

The victims were leaving a North Fork vineyard in July 2015 when their driver made what was then a legal but dangerous U-turn into the path of a pickup truck.

Four other women and the limo driver were hospitalized.

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As mentioned earlier, Cuomo is proposing a number of statutory reforms to both protect passengers and hold those accountable who seek to defy the law, including:

• An outright ban on the registration of remanufactured limousines, prohibiting their operation in New York state

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• Require drivers to hold a Commercial driver license with a special passenger endorsement to operate a for hire vehicle with eight or more passengers;

• Make it a felony to remove an out of service sticker placed by a DOT inspector from a vehicle without having the vehicle re-inspected and cleared by DOT to return to service; Increase the civil penalty to a maximum fine of $25,000 per violation for any person found operating with suspended DOT operating authority or operating a vehicle without such authority and subject such actors to felony prosecution

• Establish stronger registration suspension and vehicle impoundment powers, including an explicit process for immediate suspension of operating authority by the DOT Commissioner in circumstances that endanger the health, safety, and welfare of the public

• Explicitly authorize DOT and DMV to seize suspended license plates

• Make it a felony for any owner/operator to tamper with a federal Motor Vehicle Safety standard tag or vehicle inspection sticker

• Ensure vehicle impoundment occurs for purposes of felony violations and subject multiple violators to the potential for civil forfeiture of vehicle

• Require mandatory reporting by inspection stations to DMV if a vehicle attempts an unauthorized inspection

• Create new criminal penalties for any DMV-regulated inspection station that illegally issues an inspection sticker

• Prohibit U-turns for larger vehicles on all roads within the state

• Eliminate the exception to seat belt requirements for limousines, buses, taxis, liveries, and school buses

• Establish a DOT inspection fee of $120 per inspection for vehicles subject to such inspection.

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(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)