Crashes involving stretch limos have revealed safety flaws, said Sen. Chuck Schumer, and a federal safety agency now will probe such accidents on a case-by-case basis.
Though carmakers must meet all safety requirements, companies that overhaul limousines to carry more passengers, or to offer drinks, bars, moon roofs and privacy partitions, are not held to the same standards.
Since this summer's collision between a pickup truck and a stretch limo killed four young women on a Cutchogue road, Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been pressuring the National Transportation Safety Board to close this regulatory loophole.
To help the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommend safety improvements, the NTSB must gather more accident data, he explained.
The NTSB, in an Aug. 19 letter, responded to Schumer's request, saying: "We share your concern that relatively little information is available about how stretch limousines perform in a variety of crash scenarios."
The agency said it will look into any limousine crashes that merit its attention -- not only those involving stretch limousines, favored by prom-goers, wedding parties and other celebrants. "We will continue to monitor and investigate when appropriate limousine accidents as they occur," the agency told Schumer.
The NTSB in 2014 did investigate the crash that nearly killed comedian Tracy Morgan when a truck hit the luxury van he was traveling in, an accident that killed his friend.
However, it did not look into the 2012 limousine fire that killed five young women, members of a bridal party, who were traveling over a bridge in San Francisco.
"All too often, stretched limousines lack basic safety protections, including not enough side impact air bags, rollover bars, appropriate exits and more," Schumer said in a statement Wednesday.
The NTSB kicked off its new limo initiative by recommending that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration require these vehicles to have multiple exits, Schumer said.
Further, it asked the trade group, the National Limousine Association, to request that its members post the maximum weight and number of people their limos can carry, he said.
The NTSB recommendations echo those it made for vans modified to carry more people, which it crafted after Morgan's crash.