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Nassau County cracks down on prom limo drivers, issuing 30 citations

Gregory May, commissioner of the Nassau County Taxi

Gregory May, commissioner of the Nassau County Taxi & Limousine Commission, speaks at a news conference on prom transportation safety at Crest Hollow Country Club Wednesday, with from left, Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Affairs Kenneth M. Heino, Nassau police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, County Executive Laura Curran, and District Attorney Madeline Singas. Credit: Danielle Silverman

A Nassau County partnership that expanded safety checks of limo and other hired drivers for proms led to 30 citations being issued at three dances so far this spring, officials said Wednesday. One driver was cited for driving a "prom bus" with a suspended license.

The county police department, and investigators from the county’s Department of Consumer Affairs and the New York State Department of Transportation are stepping up enforcement to weed out for-hire drivers who are operating vehicles without appropriate licensing or registration.

Prom checks began in 2006, but the DOT is putting more inspectors at Nassau County proms this season, said Gregory May, commissioner of the Taxi & Limousine Commission, which is part of the Consumer Affairs Department.

“It’s just a much more collaborative process than in the past,” he said.

The goal is to increase students’ safety on prom night by intergovernmental cooperation, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said at a news conference Wednesday at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, a popular prom venue.

“We want to take some of the worry out of it” for parents, Curran said.

Parents also are being asked to take a proactive role in prom transportation safety, by asking whether hired drivers are licensed, registered and have clean driving records.

The Department of Consumer Affairs issued 27 citations this spring at proms held by Walter G. O'Connell Copiague High School and St. Anthony's High School, both of which were held at Crest Hollow, and Plainedge High School, whose prom was held at a Marriott hotel in Uniondale. 

Some citations were issued for drivers not having so-called hack licenses from a municipality in Nassau County or the county itself, or they were operating vehicles not registered with the Taxi & Limousine Commission, May said.

Hired drivers who have gone through the county’s licensing process have an annual drug test and have undergone a New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services criminal background check.

In recent years, there has been an uptick in the hiring of prom buses, which includes any limo carrying more than 14 passengers, and they are regulated by the DOT, May said.

This spring, the DOT issued three citations for prom buses that were deemed to be out of service because two had nonfunctioning emergency equipment and one had a driver with a suspended license.

In the case of Uber and Lyft, Consumer Affairs investigators fine drivers who are driving vehicles that are different from those they have registered with the ride-sharing companies, May said.

Increased enforcement of hired-car services is needed not only for safety of passengers but also to ensure they get to and from their destinations as planned, said James Howard, assistant manager of S&G Limousine in Merrick.

“Lots of people who own limousines that aren’t licensed, they don’t have the stamps and everything... they get towed that night,” he said.

The prom citations carry civil penalties from $250 to $1,500, May said.  No arrests were made at the dances. Officials declined to name the cited companies because they can appeal.

No students were left without transportation after the proms, since the limo companies provided replacement drivers or vehicles for those cited, May said.

Consumer Affairs issued about 1,200 citations for hired-car violations in May and June 2016, and between 1,500 and 1,600 citations during the same period last year, May said.  About half of those citations in each two-month period were for proms, he said.

He expects the number of prom-related citations to be higher this year.

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