Vermont to look at safety regulations after NY limo crash

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In the wake of a crash of a supersized limousine that killed 20 people in upstate New York on Saturday, Vermont will likely look at its own safety policies, the chief inspector for the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles said Monday.

"Whenever you have a tragedy like this occur, I think we have the responsibility to take a look at this from a learning perspective," said Scott Davidson. "Tragedies like these can hopefully be learning lessons as well, moving forward."

The DMV is near the end of the process of rewriting its inspection manual, pending approval by the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules, Davidson said.

Davidson said he thinks Vermont does a "pretty good job" of ensuring vehicle safety, including those for hire like limousines.

"I would say that Vermont has safeguards in place to protect the Vermonter by way of Vermont safety inspection," he said.

Like any other passenger vehicle, limousines are inspected annually, considering things like steering, suspension, brakes and tires.

"Everything that affects safety," Davidson said. "Soup to nuts on a vehicle."

For example, any vehicle that requires more than 25 feet to stop from 20 mph in the safety inspection will be rejected, according to the Vermont Periodic Inspection Manual for cars and trucks.

The limousine involved in the New York state crash had recently failed a safety inspection, and the driver was not properly licensed, the Associated Press has reported.

Some cities also have their own ordinances, which lay out even more requirements.

Vermont inspection standards are enforced primarily through law enforcement, with fines that are the same for limos as they are for any other vehicle.

Limousines — and other vehicles — without a valid inspection sticker would be assessed a fine of $105, Davidson said.

If a vehicle carries 16 or more passengers, including the driver, and is from out of state, that same violation would carry a $266 fine, he said.

There are also other enforcement methods — including criminal charges. "We've actually charged mechanics with manslaughter," Davidson said of inspection mechanics who certified vehicles' safety improperly.

Federal motor vehicle safety standards also require any vehicle that seats 16 people, including the driver, to be safety inspected, he said. The driver must also have at least a Class C commercial drivers license, he said.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.

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