Following the guilty verdict of Nauman Hussain for his role in the deadly limousine crash in Schoharie County that killed 20 on Oct. 6, 2018, state lawmakers say more laws need to be passed to address ongoing safety concerns.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, said one of his major end-of-session priorities is to reconvene the Limo Safety Task Force, which has been seemingly defunct after it released its final report to the state Legislature last fall. Santabarbara, who sponsored the original legislation that created the task force following the crash, introduced into the state Assembly earlier this month new legislation to reconvene the task force with the goal of issuing a new report by December 2024. The state inspector general issued a report last fall. Similar legislation has already passed the state Senate. The legislative session ends on June 8.
Meanwhile, both Santabarbara and state Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, said they would support making the task force permanent to address ongoing issues.
“The issue with [ending the task force] is that there was a deadline for when the report was due, but that was before the [state] inspector general’s report was available to them,” Santabarbara said. “I believe the Limo Safety Task Force should be continuous and not end at some point. I will keep introducing bills to extend it and I’m hoping the governor makes it a permanent task force that can continue this work, even if it is meeting maybe a few times a year down the road.”
Tedisco said there were merits to making the task force permanent.
“I don’t think it would harm us to have it be permanent. They don’t have to meet as frequently once they get this investigation done,” he said. “It might be a good one to keep in place and not have to keep coming back and saying, ‘We’ve got to reinvent the wheel and put them back in place.’” Because, I don’t believe they’ve completed their job.
Tedisco said he believes the most important pieces of legislation are still pending. Specifically, the state inspector general’s report found, among other regulatory shortfalls, that there was a breakdown in communication from the state Department of Motor Vehicles and state Department of Transportation in properly flagging and following up on reports of mechanical issues and multiple failed inspections of Hussain’s limo company cars. However, Tedisco said the report did not name or identify the positions or people responsible for that failure.
“[The IG report] was limited in terms of giving those quick answers to the questions I think need to be answered — and they just shut [the task force] down. I think they shut it down because they knew there were people who made those decisions and those people have to answer why they made those decisions and how we’re going to stop that from happening again,” Tedisco said. “Is it just a question of were they incompetent people? Were they not trained properly? Did they not know what they were supposed to do? We need answers to those questions.”
The state has taken action since the 2018 crash. In 2020, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a package of 10 bills aimed at improving safety regulations for the limo industry.
The package included authorizing the impoundment or immobilization of defective limousines if they remain unrepaired, new mandatory seat-belt installation and use requirements, increased penalties for illegal U-turns, new commercial driver’s license requirements for limousine drivers and other issues.
Earlier this year, the state Senate passed a package of four bills that aim to further limo safety measures. One bill would age out stretch limos that have reached 350,000 miles or 10 years of service, whichever comes first. Another would require limousines to equip emergency tools like window break equipment and fire extinguishers.
“I think it’s important we’re making sure that we are being proactive and making sure that all levels of government are working together — whether that’s local, state or federal,” Santabarbara said. “We need to make sure they’re all working together to ensure that we never see another disaster like the Schoharie limo crash.”