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San Mateo Limo Fire Pushes Two Limo Safety Bills to Governors Desk

Two bills concerning limo safety are waiting for Governor Brown’s approval. After the horrific San Mateo limo fire on May 4 that killed five women headed to a bridal party, including the bride, advocates for limo safety have pushed for new legislation.

SB 338, created by Senator Jerry Hill, addresses safety and regulatory gaps in limousine oversight. The bill requires owners of limousines that have been modified to increase passenger capacity to obtain certification from the California Highway Patrol that the vehicle meets federal and state motor vehicle standards. Currently, only limousines that carry more than 10 passengers are required to be inspected every 13 months by the California Highway Patrol, and this legislation would expand that requirement to all limousines. Additionally, a readily accessible and fully charged fire extinguishers must be placed in the driver’s compartment, and another in the passengers’ compartment. An inspection fee will also be imposed on limousine owners, which will be somewhere between $25 and $75 per vehicle, not to exceed $6,500.

Senator Ellen Corbett’s bill, SB 109, would impose a requirement for at least two rear side doors and one or two rear windows that the passengers may open from the inside of the vehicle in case of any emergency. If the design of the vehicle precludes this, then the owner must install a push-out window in the roof of the limousine. Limousine drivers would also be required to unlock the doors of the vehicle in the event of an emergency. Passengers would also be subject to a safety briefing, similar to the instructions provided by airline employees on commercial flights.

Currently, there are approximately 4,200 limousines operated in California. Gov. Jerry Brown has until October 13 to decide whether the bills become California law.