People in Houston and throughout Texas hire limousines all of the time for special occasions such as proms, birthday parties and wedding celebrations. However, as a tragic vehicle accident which happened in early October in New York underscores, not all limos are safe or operated by safe companies. This is why you should always do your research before you hire one of these vehicles.
USA Today reports that a group of 17 friends and family members had initially hired a "party bus" to take them to a brewery in upstate New York for a birthday party. However, the bus broke down. So, the party hired the limo as a back-up.
While on the way to the party, the "stretch SUV" limo ran through a stop sign and slammed into a parked car. The crash killed all of the passengers as well as the driver and two pedestrians. It was the deadliest transportation industry accident in nine years.
Details About Limo and Driver Raise Red Flags
The National Transportation Safety Board currently is investigating the crash. The NTSB has not determined whether driver error or a vehicle malfunction – or a combination of factors – caused the accident to happen, according to CNN. However, in media reports, several disturbing details have come out about the vehicle and its driver.
First, according to CNN, the limo was a 2001 Ford Excursion which had been converted into a limo. Those types of vehicles have long raised concerns because "after-market modifications often affect a vehicle's structural integrity," one NTSB official told the network. Additionally, this specifically modified limo had failed a mandatory New York State Department of Transportation inspection just one month before the crash. In other words, it should not have been on the road.
Second, it appears that the driver of the limo should not have been on the road, either. The driver lacked a required commercial driver's license (CDL) with a passenger endorsement.
As part of its investigation, NTSB officials are also looking into whether a lack of seatbelts in the limo contributed to the deaths.
What to Look for When You Hire a Limo in Houston
The accident will hopefully serve as a wake-up call for state and federal officials who provide oversight of the limousine, or "for-hire" vehicle industry in our country. As one NTSB official told CNN, regulations are important – New York actually has some of the toughest rules in the country – but so is enforcement of those regulations. If a vehicle fails an inspection, for instance, officials should take additional steps to ensure that it does not get on the road.
The crash should also serve as a wake-up call for anyone in Houston or other areas of Texas who plans to hire a limo. For instance, before you hire a company, you should first familiarize yourself with local for-hire industry regulations and even check on the company's background.
In Houston, the Vehicle for Hire Permitting and Enforcement Section of the city's Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department oversees the limo industry. The section has an extensive set of regulations and engages in "field enforcement" that is aimed at ensuring that drivers and companies comply with those rules. If you have any questions about those regulations or even about a specific company and its history of compliance, you should call (832) 394-8803.
Additionally, you can contribute to safety by filing a complaint if you have a bad experience with an unsafe driver or company. You can download the complaint form here.
Get Help from an Experienced Houston Auto Accident Attorney
At The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian, we care about your safety. If you have suffered injuries in an auto accident due to the negligence of a limo driver or company, contact our experienced legal team to learn more about your rights and options. We are available 24/7 to speak with you about your case.