Sen. Chuck Schumer is urging stricter federal oversight of stretch limousines that have been altered "in the name of opulence."
The proposal, made Sunday at a news conference in Schumer's midtown Manhattan office, follows the July 18 limo crash that killed four young women leaving Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue on the North Fork. Two were from Smithtown, one was from Commack and the fourth was from Kings Park.
Authorities said the limo driver, with a group of eight women inside, made a U-turn on Route 48 and was struck by an oncoming pickup truck.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) said there is "little oversight" governing the alteration of limousines into stretched vehicles. Often, the vehicle's chassis is made longer and emergency exits are removed or blocked, Schumer said.
"When a limo or party bus actually leaves the manufacturing floor, it has passed all the federal and state requirements necessary to protect drivers and passengers," Schumer said. But he added there are "no other standards," after they have been taken to aftermarket shops and converted into stretch limousines.
"When secondary market manufacturers tear limos apart in the name of opulence -- stretching them thin, adding TVs -- they end up blocking emergency exits, weakening the structure of the vehicle and more," Schumer said. "These secondary changes create significant gaps in safety standards required for regular passenger cars and required for regular limos," Schumer said.
Schumer said the stretch limousines should have more side-impact air bags, reinforced rollover protection bars, and structurally sound frames.
Schumer said he has urged leaders of the National Transportation Safety Board and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to immediately upgrade safety standards for stretch limos. "They should study what's wrong, make recommendations and require all stretch limos to meet those recommendations," Schumer said.
Eric Weiss, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the agency "does not have regulatory powers." Officials from the NHTSA did not immediately return messages.