In the wake of the worst transportation disaster in the U.S. since 2009 which involved 20 deaths from a stretch limousine crash, this is an opportune time to take a deep dive into safety around limousine and party vehicle rentals.
The public needs to be aware stretch limousines like the one involved in the tragic accident in New York earlier this month are not subject to the same federal safety regulations as conventional motor vehicles. The risk is compounded by the fact that these vehicles are often “stretched” by unregulated “after-market” companies affecting their crash worthiness. They also lack standard safety features such as proper forward-facing seating. Additionally, because limousine use often involves a social occasion, passengers are less vigilant about safety measures like wearing seat belts and sitting properly in their seats.
On the other side of the coin, this luxury form of ride-sharing is certainly preferable to drinking and driving. Deaths from limousine accidents are quite low. In the U.S. between 2012 and 2016 the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System reported only 12 deaths in limousine crashes.
My work as a plaintiff’s attorney gives me a window into what can be better, evoking something positive from tragedy. Here are my recommendations for best practices for limousine or any party vehicle rental:
Before the rental:
Do your research to find a reputable company. The Illinois Limousine Association website has a list of companies that meet the highest standards.
Ask how long the company has been in business.
Ask for references or direction to a website where the company has been reviewed. If they have it, a list of corporate clients would underscore the company’s reputation and provide additional vetting.
Ask for proof of insurance.
Ask about their driver standards and whether the drivers are employees or short-term independent contractors.
Ask when the last time the vehicle you’re renting was inspected and the results of the inspection.
Ask the capacity of the vehicle.
On the day of the rental:
Check the vehicle and confirm the capacity is appropriate for your party (capacity is usually listed on the door).
Check to make sure everyone has seat belts and uses them.
Check the driver’s credentials.
Interact with the driver each time you enter the vehicle (i.e. if you’re returning to the vehicle after being at a bar, restaurant or event) to determine if there are any signs he or she is altered.
If at any time you feel the driver is not driving safely or seems altered in any way, ask the driver to stop the vehicle and call the company for an immediate replacement.
Following this checklist puts you in the best position to ensure your special occasion doesn’t end in tragedy.