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RICHMOND, Va. — The fatal limousine fire that killed five people on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge over the San Francisco Bay has sent shockwaves through the industry and spurred discussion of passenger safety in stretch limousines.
Randy Allen, owner of James Limousine Service of Richmond, Va., told LCT on Tuesday that he has already implemented additional safety measures in response to the tragedy.
“It’s a catastrophic event,” said Allen, “but certainly it should give everyone in the industry reason to pause and make sure they’re doing absolutely everything they can to ensure the safety of their passengers.”
Allen said he was taking the following actions in all his stretched vehicles:
1. Adding a fire extinguishers to the front compartment (already had them in the trunk).
2. Disabling the child safety locks on the rear doors so passengers can always open the door from the inside.
3. Purchasing spring-loaded emergency window punch-out tools and placing them in all limos. This is small, simple safety device that costs about $15. Watch a demo video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5f7pZX61Bo
Even operators with a strong safety record should remain open to new ideas regarding safety precautions, Allen said.
It also can be difficult to determine exactly what is in the best interest of passengers. In the past, activating child safety locks was seen as measure to prevent unknowing or intoxicated passengers from exiting the vehicle while in motion or stepping into oncoming traffic. Allen has decided to disable child safety locks because he thinks that people won’t be comfortable if they cannot open the door from the inside.
“I’m not trying to gain exposure,” he said. “It’s a horrible accident. But I think it’s important for the industry respond quickly to show that we take it seriously and that we’re all willing to do everything we can to ensure the safety of our passengers.”
California authorities are still investigating the exact cause of the Saturday evening limousine blaze. They already have determined that the limo was carrying one too many passengers beyond its legal limit of eight, while survivors have told media outlets that the chauffeur at first did not immediately respond to warnings of smoke in the rear compartment.
— Denis Wilson, LCT East Coast Editor
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