Deadly California limousine fire inspires new safety regulations

A new California law requires limousine companies to have a certain number of emergency exits in their vehicles.

Countless people across California hire limousine drivers throughout the year for a number of important events. While the busiest time of year for limo companies may be in the spring due to proms and weddings, limo drivers are kept busy in all seasons. The upcoming holidays may be especially busy, as many people like to show up to holiday parties in style.

There are certain standards of safety that companies employing commercial passenger vehicles must adhere to, both for their customers' well-being and to allow them to continue operating. These include limousine companies as well as buses and taxis. Recently, some of these standards have been tightened in response to a tragic accident that occurred in a limousine during what should have been the happiest time of a young woman's life.

Tragic limo fire spurs changes to safety regulations

According to NBC News, a limousine caught fire on the San Mateo Bridge in 2013. The fire, which authorities determined was caused by a problem with the vehicle's rear suspension system, resulted in the untimely deaths of five nurses - one of them being the bride. The fire was deemed a tragic accident, but the limousine company was fined $1,500 for transporting one more passenger than allowed, for a total of nine.

Fox 40 News reports that the new California law, AB 863, requires the following changes in limousines:

  • Each vehicle needs to have two rear side doors and one or more pop-out windows.
  • Drivers need to explain safety procedures, including escape routes, to their passengers.
  • Limousine companies have until January 2016 to make the changes to their existing vehicles, while the law has been in effect since last July for new limos.

Some are afraid that these changes will be detrimental to smaller business owners, who would be required to spend thousands on their fleets to adjust to the new law.

Staying safe in a limousine

There are a few steps customers may take to improve their own safety and experience with a limousine company, states the California Public Utilities Commission. It is important when checking out limousine companies to ensure they are licensed and registered with the CPUC, as well as to ask if the company carries liability insurance. Understanding the new law and adhering to the company's rules are good practices for every customer. It is also a good idea to thoroughly inspect the vehicle in consideration, to be sure it carries the appropriate safety measures and to become familiar with where the exits are located.

Will these new regulations prevent another tragedy like the San Mateo Bridge deaths from occurring? It is to be hoped that another incident like that will never be repeated. However, reasonable safety measures are often wise and necessary. People who were injured because a company failed to adhere to safety standards may be eligible for compensation.