—Written by Laura Dudnick
The Assembly has passed a limousine safety bill in California that calls for increasing the number of required exit points in the passenger compartment in limos.
Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett, D-East Bay, announced the bill's passage Tuesday, sending SB 109 to the full Senate for final legislative approval.
SB 109 requires that limousines have at least two rear side doors and one or two rear push-out windows to be used in the case of an emergency.
The doors must be situated on opposite sides of the vehicle. At least one or two rear push-out windows must also be placed on opposite sides of the vehicle, though provisions within the bill allow for a push out window to be installed on the roof of the limousine if vehicle structural limitations exist.
SB 109 also requires limousine operators to instruct passengers on the safety features of the vehicle before the beginning of any trip.
The bill applies to all new limousines after July 1, 2015, and contains a two-and-a-half year phase-in period for limousines modified or extended prior to that date.
Following the tragic deaths of a bride and four friends in a horrific limousine fire on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge in early May—as well as a second incident in Walnut Creek where 10 elderly women narrowly escaped serious injury less than six weeks later—Corbett believes that there is an urgent need to further protect passengers in limousines within California.
“Five women died on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge this past May for one primary reason: they were trapped inside a burning limousine with no way to escape other than through a raging fire,” Corbett said.
“SB 109 will ensure that, regardless of where a fire or other emergency may occur, passengers will be able to evacuate through another door or window. Since people usually use limos on festive occasions such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and graduations, SB 109 will provide these passengers with a greater certainty that they will be able to promptly and safely exit limos in the case of an emergency,” she said.Following Tuesday's approval, SB 109 returns to the full Senate for final legislative approval.