Limo safety in Wisconsin, DMV gives insight after deadly crash

Published: Oct. 9, 2018 at 6:47 PM CDT
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The limousine crash in New York over the weekend has put the topic of safety on the front lines for anyone ever planning a trip either in the near future or ever. NBC15 asked the Wisconsin DMV to clarify and compare certain aspects of the incident in New York to what applies to laws and regulations keeping Wisconsinites safe.

On Oct. 6, the limousine ran a stop sign and crashed on a rural road 25 miles west of Albany, New York. The driver, 17 passengers and two pedestrians were killed in the crash.

On Oct. 8, the New York state transportation official revealed the owner of the limo was warned not to operate the vehicle after it failed an inspection. The limo that was crashed was also placed out of service after a September inspection and was subject to additional inspections.

Two days before the crash, the limo company posted a vehicle for sale on Craigslist matching the description of the one in the fatal accident. The listing for the modified 2001 Ford Excursion asked $9,000 and described the vehicle as being in "excellent" condition, "DOT Ready full serviced," with 180,000 miles on the odometer.

NBC15 asked the Wisconsin DMV for clarification on limo licenses in Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, the need for a commercial driver license (CDL) when operating a limousine is based on the size and passenger-carrying capacity of the vehicle being driven, according to an email from the DMV.

Cities and other states may have additional requirements. Based on the size of the limousine, the required license could be a non-commercial Class D license or it could be a commercial Class B/C license with a Passenger endorsement.

The requirements for the licenses, that a vehicle designed to carry fewer than sixteen passengers (including the driver) would not require a CDL in Wisconsin, provided the vehicle weight was below 26,000 pounds.

Some Wisconsin cities may have additional requirements for licensing or driver registration, and other state laws may vary greatly.

If the driver, from the New York limo crash, was in Wisconsin, the person would be required to have a Class B/C CDL with a passenger endorsement in Wisconsin, considering the driver was carrying 17 passengers, according to the DMV.

This is required of anyone operating a vehicle “designed to carry, or actually carrying, 16 or more passengers, including the driver.”

This requirement exists under Wisconsin law and federal regulations.

The driver of this class of vehicle would also have been required to hold a current Federal Medical Examiner Certificate (FedMed Card), indicating they were medically safe to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

Other questions surround the "modification" of the stretch limo and how the modification impacted the safety of the vehicle.

The 2001 Ford Excursion limousine involved in the deadly crash was "a chopped vehicle," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said to NBC News, meaning it had been cut from a passenger vehicle and extended.

The limousine also did not have a certification that it had been extended "in a way that was compliant with federal law," Cuomo said.

Experts said such modified vehicles face less regulations than typical passenger cars and often have had features removed intended to keep occupants safe.

If the vehicle were in Wisconsin, this conversion could have resulted in the need for an initial inspection by State Patrol, according to Wisconsin DMV.