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Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara talks Limousine Safety Laws | New York NOW

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara talks Limousine Safety Laws | New York NOW

(upbeat bright music) – New regulations for stretch
limousines are now law in New York after governor
Andrew Cuomo signed a series of bills on the issue this week. The legislation was proposed
after 20 people died in a tragic accident in Schoharie County. The crash made national
news and prompted action by the state legislature. Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara
helped craft the package of bills signed by Cuomo this week. He’s with me now in studio
to talk more about them. Thanks for being here, assemblyman. – Thanks for having me on the show. – Absolutely. So I wanna put some context
to the Schoharie limo crash. We found out from prosecutors that it may have been caused by some
neglect of the vehicle’s brakes. Tell me how the package of bills may prevent another
accident like this one. – Well, as you said, it was a pretty significant
package of bills. It changes the regulations
here in New York in the way they operate across the state. There was a lot of
input from the families, the families who are
advocates for the changes, and the bill is aimed at
strengthening regulations. Some of the bills are aimed at improving safety for passengers. Among the bills, I think
the most important bills was a 10-bill package. The most important bill is DOT will now have the power to impound and immobilize vehicles that
fail safety inspections, so there’s no chance of
these vehicles getting back on the road. I think that’s a very significant change, something new for DOT that
a power they didn’t have in the past, so that is perhaps
the most significant change out of the bills, so I think that is going to help with safety and make
sure that safety inspections are addressed before any
vehicle could be on the road. – And then the context
of the Schoharie crash, and we should mention that this is based on more than one accident
in New York state. In the context of the Schoharie crash, that bill is important because if, and correct me if I’m wrong, the limo actually failed
the safety inspection, but the owners put it back on the road. – And that’s exactly what happened. It was a vehicle that should’ve
never been on the road. But in addition to that, when
you look at the investigations that have gone into the Schoharie crash, the National Transportation Safety board released their initial report and pointed out a number of glaring flaws, and one of the things they talked
about is seat belts. The seat belt equipment was not available to every passenger. If you wanted to wear one,
you couldn’t wear one, so that was addressed;
those issues were addressed in this bill package,
which points out the need. This is a significant package. It talks about a new class
of driver’s license you’re gonna need to operate
one of these limousines, alcohol and drug testing,
preemployment drug testing. But the consumer part of
it, too, to be able to, when a limousine shows up, to be able to match up the information on a website, report violations, consumer protections. Prom season came around last year, and people were just
afraid to hire limousines, to have their kids in a limousine. There needs to be some way for me as a consumer to be able to check, to make sure it’s the proper driver, to make sure the vehicle
has passed inspection. The Department of Transportation will now provide that information. You’ll be able to check
in on a smartphone. There’ll be a 1-800 hotline to
be able to report violations and a number of other consumer protections that which I think was very important. – One thing you mentioned
is this enhanced license or new license for these drivers. I think it would surprise some people to know that, before these laws, if you were driving a stretch limousine, you didn’t have to have any
kind of special license. – Yeah, and you’re responsible for, in this case, it was 20
people in the limousine. You should have a enhanced driver’s license, a special driver’s license to
operate one of these vehicles. And you talk to limousine companies that are operating in New York. This bill package, the limousine companies were accepting of the changes. I think that what we’re trying to do here is get the bad operators out of New York, make sure they’re not operating, making sure they’re not
putting people in danger, making sure that the vehicles
are meeting the strictest of standards, which, in New York state now with this bill package,
we are leading the way. And as you mentioned
in your opening remarks that this made national news. This was the worst transportation disaster in nearly a decade, and, for that matter, the entire world took note
of what happened here. So all eyes were on us on
what we were going to do. I give a lot of credit to the families. They were advocates for these bills. They had a lot of input on the
bill package that was passed. They were up at the Capitol
when the bills were passed, and their next stop is Washington, DC. And I urge members of
Congress, senate leaders, the president to come together to take up a bill package
that covers every state. We need to make sure tragedies like this don’t happen ever again. No family should ever have to go through such a tragic, devastating loss. – And we already have that
push at the federal level by some of the local
representatives here in Congress and I believe the senators
from New York state as well. Has there been any update since
they pushed that last year, or what’s the status of that? – They actually came to
the city of Amsterdam, where a lot of the families had ties to Amsterdam in the
Schoharie limousine crash to talk about a bill package. I urge them to look at what we did here and to adopt a lot of what
we put into this package. We are hoping to get an update soon. I know there’s a lot going
on in Washington, DC, but this is an important issue. And one of the things I mentioned is that I called in the governor to sign these bills as soon as possible because, with every day that goes by, these protections were not in place. And the same can be
applied to every state, whether it’s California, Texas, Florida, wherever the case may be. There may be people in danger
that are in stretch limousines that do not have these protections, and that’s just unacceptable. – All right, Assemblyman
Angelo Santabarbara, thank you so much for being
on New York NOW this week. – Thank you, great to be here. (bright upbeat music)

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