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Limo Fire Raises Questions About Safety

State and federal authorities are still investigating the cause of the limousine fire that killed five women on the San Mateo Bridge in California. Even before knowing the cause of the limo fire, however, the tragic accident has many people wondering whether it is safe to ride in limos.

California only requires annual safety inspections of limos that carry 10 or more passengers. The 1999 Lincoln Town Car involved in the accident was built to carry eight passengers, though there were nine in it at the time of the fire. Furthermore, there were no regulations in place requiring the limo to carry a fire extinguisher.

State Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo has vowed to introduce legislation requiring fire extinguishers in all limos and inspections for smaller commercially run limousines. "Everything is identical," in the smaller limos as in the larger limos, Hill said, so the lack of inspections "makes no sense."

Like the bigger limos, the Lincoln Town Car was created by cutting a smaller vehicle in half, adding additional passenger room in the middle and severing and rebuilding electrical and fuel lines. Some question whether errors in that process caused the fire. According to experts, the modification of fuel and electrical lines can add stress to those systems and cause damage over time.

The owner of one limo company, LeGrand Affaire WorldWide Ground Transportation told the San Jose Mercury News, "There's a lot of manufacturers out there that will try to save a buck (or) two ... and they don't look at the longevity of the vehicle." That is why his company inspects the limos before every trip.

What can you do to ensure that the limo company you hire is doing the same? Ask them. Inspect the vehicles yourself before renting a limo. Ask about the company's safety and training policies. And never put more people in the limo than the passenger limit allows.

Source: Silicon Valley Mercury News, "Limo Fire: No Safety Inspections For Smaller California Limos," Thomas Peele, Joshua Melvin, May 8, 2013

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