By on October 7, 2019

In the wake of a deadly Ford Excursion limousine crash in upstate New York, the National Transportation Safety Board is calling on limo operators and builders to ensure passengers are belted in. It’s also calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make its recommendation the law of the land.

The 2018 crash in Schoharie, NY killed 18 occupants of the aging SUV-turned-limo, as well as two pedestrians. Using this crash and several others as a starting point, the NTSB’s study and subsequent report found that the only way to ensure passenger safety is the most obvious one: buckle up.

While the 2001 Excursion super-stretch retained the model’s original rear seats and belts and included belts for the perimeter-style bench seating, “the NTSB found the side- and rear-facing bench seats failed in the direction of the crash forces and that the strength of these seats and their anchorages were inadequate during the crash,” the report states.

“In comparison, the original Ford passenger seats in the rear of the vehicle remained attached to the floor and intact.”

Despite the passenger compartment of the limo remaining intact following the crash, none of the occupants were belted when the vehicle lost control on a steep grade. The NTSB feels the crash would have been survivable, had the seats remained secure and the belts properly anchored. And, of course, if the occupants were strapped in.

Two other fatal limo crashes ⁠— one in Elgin, Illinois, and the other in Cranbury, New Jersey ⁠— also saw fatalities, despite lower crash forces than those seen in the NY accident. Again, seatbelts were provided, but occupants chose not to wear them.

Especially with perimeter seating, “if seat belts on limousines are not readily accessible to the passengers, they are unlikely to be worn,” the NTSB claims.

The board’s recommendations are threefold. For one, it calls upon the NHTSA to “require lap/shoulder belts for each passenger seating position on all new vehicles modified to be used as limousines,” and to mandate that “seating systems in these vehicles to meet minimum performance standards to ensure their integrity during a crash.”

It also calls upon the National Limousine Association to educate its members on proper seat belt use and “develop methods to ensure seat belts are functional and accessible to passengers and encourage passengers to use them.” Lastly, the NTSB wants the New York Department of Transportation to “ensure all limousine seat belts are functional and accessible in their regular inspection process.”

[Image: Volvo Cars]

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9 Comments on “NTSB to Limo Operators: Buckle Up for Change...”

  • avatar

    They’ll just be like seat belts on school buses: never worn.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Will operators be held liable if the occupants disregard the seat belts?

    Will operators be held liable if people die even while wearing the seat belts?

    I think the answer to both questions is yes, so the seat belts will exist simply to offer the occupants the opportunity to be safe.

  • avatar

    Okay, we all know that you are better off when buckled up and when the seats stay attached to the floor. I’m seeing nothing here or at the link that states the proximate cause of the accident. About all I’m getting from the links at the NTSB site is that the State of New York tried to stonewall the NTSB.
    Anybody have a clue what the cause was? Brake failure, driver health issues, what?
    After all, you are better off not having the accident at all.


    • 0 avatar

      I believe it was a combination of old and failing brakes, too much speed, and a dangerous intersection. The Excursion was already underbraked to begin with. The years were not kind, the vehicle was not well maintained, and this all could have been avoided by removing a dangerous and unroadworthy vehicle off of the streets.

    • 0 avatar

      When I searched ‘schoharie limo accident’ there were several entries indicating that the driver shouldn’t have been on the road and the limo was a rolling wreck. Proximate cause of the accident was catastrophic brake failure. Didn’t look closely at all the relevant entries, but from the headers, it sure looks like there are several lawsuits.

      • 0 avatar

        I didn’t recall two people outside the vehicle being killed, either. Were they walking at the end of the offramp as the limo went careening through the guardrail at the “T”-intersection?

        I thought that limo barreled through the intersection and ended up partially submerged underwater in a creek adjacent to it.

  • avatar

    Wait, how am I supposed to get a lapdance (or something more appropriate to the name) in the backseat of a stretch Hummer limo if everybody is buckled up?


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