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Three U.S. Representatives Questioned The NHTS Administration’s Refusal To Adopt New Safety Recommendations

On October 6, 2018, one of the deadliest transportation accidents in recent history occurred in Schoharie, New York. A limo carrying 17 passengers crashed on a rural road, killing all of the passengers as well as the driver and two pedestrians. The owner of the limo company is facing criminal charges in the incident. The vehicle had reportedly been taken off the road by New York inspections but was still in service at the time of the crash. Although the primary cause of the crash has been cited as catastrophic brake failure, the incident called into question whether limousines should have seat belts for passengers. While New York enacted state laws requiring seat belts for limousines, some are calling for national regulation as the Daily Gazette reports. 

On Tuesday, three bipartisan members of Congress from the Capitol Region questioned the failure of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to adopt new seat belt guidelines in the wake of the deadly Schoharie crash. 

U.S. Representatives Paul D. Tonko (D-Amsterdam), Antonia Delgado (D-Rhinebeck), and Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) all signed the letter to acting Administrator James C. Owens. 

The letter places Delgado and Stefanik on the record as questioning the refusal of the NHTSA’s refusal to adopt to safety recommendations put forth by the National Transportation Safety Board. 

In a preliminary conclusion, the NHTSA stated that there was insufficient evidence for the NTSB recommendations of seat belt and seat strength changes. Owens stated that there were seat belts available for the passengers, but those belts were not being used at the time of the crash. He also stated that although the seats came away from the floor in the Schoharie crash, most of the passenger space did not suffer from catastrophic damage. 

New legislation has been enacted in New York that will go into effect next January requiring limousine passengers to wear seat belts. Federal regulation change likely would not have a direct impact in New York for this reason.

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