News Release - Office of State Senator Jerry Hill
Contact: Aurelio Rojas, communications director, 916-747-3199 cell or 916-651-4013 office
Leslie Guevarra, district office, 650-212-3313 office or 415-298-3404 cell
Senator Hill Holds Media Availability Today on His Limousine Safety Bill
Senate Bill 338 Faces Crucial Vote in the Legislature Friday
What: Senator Jerry Hill will be available today in his San Mateo District Office to discuss his limousine safety bill (SB 338), whose fate will be decided Friday in the Assembly Appropriations Committee in Sacramento. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) estimates there are an estimated 4,200 converted stretch limousines in California like the one that caught fire May 5 on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, killing a bride and four of her friends en route to a bridal party in San Carlos. SB 338 would improve limousine safety standards by requiring limousines to be equipped with two fire extinguishers, to be inspected annually by the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and by requiring owners to certify to the CPUC and CHP that the vehicle meets applicable federal and state motor vehicle safety standards.
When: Thursday, August 29, 2013
Where: Senator Hill’s District Office
1528 South El Camino Real, Suite 303
Please call to arrange interviews: (650) 212-3313
Background: Like most stretch limos, the 1999 Lincoln Town Car involved in the San Mateo Bridge tragedy had been modified – cut in half, its fuel and electrical lines severed and rebuilt with a larger passenger compartment in the middle. An investigation by the CHP concluded the accident was caused by the failure of an air suspension system in the rear of the vehicle. When the system failed, the metal pan beneath the limo’s floorboard scraped against the drive shaft, creating friction and heat that ignited the blaze. The vehicle was carrying nine passengers – one more than was sanctioned. The driver and only four passengers were able to escape the burning limousine and survive.
Under current law, only limos with a seating capacity of more than 10 passengers are required to be equipped with a fire extinguisher and undergo an annual CHP safety inspection. Limos with a seating capacity of fewer than 10 passengers, like the one that caught on fire, do not have to be equipped with a fire extinguisher and do not have to undergo a CHP inspection. Hill’s legislation would close this gap and would improve safety standards for smaller limos by bringing them in line with the safety standards for larger limos. Specifically, the bill would:
- Require that limos with a seating capacity of less than 10 passengers be equipped with two readily accessible and fully charged fire extinguishers.
- Require the CHP to conduct annual safety inspections of stretch limos with a seating capacity of fewer than 10 passengers.
- Require an owner of an aftermarket limousine that has been modified to increase passenger capacity to certify to the CPUC and the CHP that the vehicle meets all applicable federal and state motor vehicle safety standards.
“Without SB 338, thousands of limousines will go uninspected and will not be equipped with a fire extinguisher,” Hill said. “This legislation simply affords smaller limousines the same safety protections that are provided to larger vehicles because a life in a nine-passenger vehicle is just as valuable as a life in a 10-passenger vehicle.”
The Assembly Appropriations Committee -- which will meet Friday in the Capitol in Room 4202 upon adjournment of the full house’s 9 a.m. regular session -- estimates the annual cost of implementing the legislation would be about $900,000. To help cover the cost, the bill allows the CHP to collect a $25 per limo fee from limo operators. SB 338 is supported by the California State Sheriffs’ Association, California Professional Firefighters, California Fire Chiefs Association and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.