Limousine safety regulations examined after fatal Bay Area limo fire


Saturday, a limousine caught fire on the San Mateo Bridge killing five nurses, one of whom was a new bride. State lawmakers are alarmed.

Limos carrying fewer than 10 passengers, like the one involved in that tragedy, are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), an agency under heavy scrutiny for its lax oversight that led to the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.

"Here's another accident or another tragedy that happened in California under the PUC," said state Assemblymember Nora Campos (D-San Jose).

Very concerning is that thousands of California teenagers headed to prom over the next several weeks.

"What are you doing to assure those parents in California that the limos that their children are getting into are safe?" said Assm. Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park).

The CPUC says Californians can look up on its website each of the 9,000 limos it regulates.

"That's a number that says that the Public Utilities Commission has verified the number of passengers that that vehicle can carry, the license of the driver, the insurance that the vehicle is required to carry," said CPUC Executive Director Paul Clannon.

"Are there specific vehicle code sections that deal with the integrity, the structural changes to those vehicles?" asked Assm. Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica).

"I don't know," said Clannon.

The gravity of San Bruno and the numerous audits that concluded safety is not a priority at the CPUC rattles Assemblywoman Campos.

"I'm not confident that the Public Utilities Commission has done the best that they can to make sure that these limos are safe," said Campos.

Asked if he would feel comfortable putting his own kids in a limo for prom season, Clannon said: "I would, and people should be reassured that the Public Utilities Commission and the Highway Patrol are making sure the limos are safe."

While the investigation into the limo fire is still pending, Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) is ready with a measure to require fire extinguishers in all limos. Currently they're only mandatory for those carrying more than 10 passengers.

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