President Barack Obama ’s limousine was parked in front of the Capitol as the president attended a luncheon in March. A pair of recent California limousine accidents have focused attention on the vehicles’ safety and oversight.
Generally, a secondary manufacturer takes ordinary large sedans or sport utility vehicles, slices them in half, then lengthens them and adds luxurious features inside the vehicles to produce limousines.
“The second-stage manufacturer is just as liable under the law,” said Jasny, the safety attorney and advocate. “But that doesn’t mean it’s inherently safe.”
Ditlow said that two-step building process raises a lot of questions that would be best answered by investigative experts at the National Transportation Safety Board.
As an independent government advisory, the NTSB retains top field experts to investigate crashes and infrastructure failures of all sorts but also faces severe resource constraints.
“It’s unfortunate because they have the knowledge and know-how and the capacity to influence policy decisions,” Ditlow said. “But the industry is so small in comparison, it just doesn’t get the notice.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been cracking down on high-risk limousine operators as part of “Operation Quick Strike,” an enforcement drive implemented this year. The effort stems from a series of fatal bus accidents in recent years, including a 2011 crash in the Bronx.
The agency’s website also provides a searchable database with safety records of carriers licensed to operate across state lines.
Industry officials say they are committed to working with investigators and regulators to ensure the safety of limousines.
“We can say with confidence that this tragic accident was an anomaly for our industry,” Philip S. Jagiela, executive director of the National Limousine Association, said about the fatal California accident. “Once a cause is determined, we will work ... to chart a constructive approach and course of action for our members.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.