Recently, a limousine crash in upstate New York caused the largest transportation accident since 2009. Unfortunately, this crash is not the first case of an egregious limousine accident. However, because limousine crashes are so rare, the industry is poorly regulated. Many limousines and party buses are intrastate vehicles, meaning they only operate within one state. This means safety standards are generally left to the state instead of the federal government.
What are California’s Limousine and Party Bus Laws?
In California, a limousine cannot carry more than 10 passengers, including the driver. A party bus may operate at any seating capacity as long as they have a certificate from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that verifies compliance with the California Public Utilities Code.
All passengers are required to wear seat belts. If a passenger is not wearing a seat belt, the driver should not move the vehicle.
Limousines and party buses must pass inspection by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) every 13 months. An inspection could include mechanical operations, maintenance logs, accident reports, and drivers’ records. Companies can have their operations suspended for failing inspections. However, an inspection does not necessarily negate the use of illegal vehicles. The CHP has stated it is difficult to find unregistered and illegal companies.
Why are Limousines and Party Buses Dangerous?
Many limousines and party buses are “stretched” or converted after leaving the vehicle manufacturer. This means that vehicles built and sold by auto manufacturers are cut apart and converted after purchase. In consequence, while the vehicles are initially in compliance with federal safety regulations, many of their safety features are stripped during conversion.
Changing the weight of the vehicle by lengthening it puts more pressure on the car’s brake system. It takes longer for a limousine or party bus to come to a complete stop. Due to the design and length of each vehicle, side airbags are either removed or become ineffective to the majority of passengers. In order to lengthen a car, the structural pillars or cage is removed. Removing the structure makes side passengers especially susceptible to catastrophic or fatal injuries in event of a side collision.
In 2016, California passed a law that requires limousines and party buses to have two pop-out windows and a rooftop hatch depending on how many doors it has. While these regulations could save lives in case of fire or drowning, they may not affect the outcome of a traffic crash.
Before you rent a limousine or party bus in California, make sure they are registered as a transportation carrier with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
Need a Car Accident Attorney?
If you have been injured in a car accident due to the negligence of another person or entity, contact the Law Offices of Braid Pezzaglia. You could be eligible to recover compensation for your injuries. We represent accident victims in Santa Clara County. Call us today at (408) 650-8955 or contact us online to discuss your situation.