New York Limo Crash Reveals Nationwide Questions About Frankenstein Vehicles

New York Limo Crash Reveals Nationwide Questions About Frankenstein Vehicles
Bernard Walsh Nov/14/2018

A recent crash in Schoharie, New York has raised new questions about frankenstein vehicles across the nation. NPR reported the crash occurred between a stretch limo made from a modified Ford Excursion and two pedestrians. The vehicle overran a T-intersection and careening into a parking lot, hitting two pedestrians, and an unoccupied vehicle. Sadly, the crash killed all of the 18 occupants and both pedestrians. This crash was the deadliest transportation accident since the 2009 plane crash.

An Illegally Driven Vehicle

According to the New York state governor, Andrew Cuomo, the vehicle had failed a safety inspection. The driver also did not have proper licensing to drive the vehicle. It is still unclear whether the crash was the result of driver error or vehicle malfunction. The state, however, has ordered the limousine company to stop operations until the investigation into the accident is complete.

A Call For New Laws

“Frankenstein” vehicles like the Ford Excursion involved in the accident are found across the country. They are built by modifying an existing vehicle by sawing it in half and lengthening the body with a variety of parts. Frankenstein vehicles are often used by limousine and charter companies. They are also often custom fabricated work trucks for a variety of purposes. Though the state of New York has laws and regulations covering modified vehicles, these kinds of modifications reduce the safety of the vehicle and many are calling for new laws as a result of this horrible accident.

A Safety Hazard On The Roads

The problem with Frankenstein vehicles is they are cobbled together from a variety of parts. This leads them to have a variety of safety and stability issues. They also impact the driver’s ability to handle the vehicle and reaction times to potential accidents. The biggest problem is that these vehicles may pass the initial safety testing, but once modified are no longer the same vehicle. Therefore, they can get around safety laws other vehicles have to follow. This is especially problematic since most of these vehicles are so large and can cause severe damage as we’ve seen with the accident in New York.

The Key Problem With Regulations

Whether or not new safety regulations are needed on Frankenstein vehicles is yet to be seen, especially since this vehicle was being driven illegally. However, the biggest issue the crash has highlighted is how regulations are conducted. Regulations are not conducted by a single governing body, but instead are a patchwork of different agencies from both the federal and state levels. Federal agencies regulate the safety at the manufacturing level, while most all other regulations are done at the state level to comply with state law including safety features like seat belts. This creates a serious complication when a Frankenstein vehicle passes Federal legislation prior to modification, but then can go on to meet state regulations that do not check the same safety features. This highlights the need for states to possibly providing more aftermarket regulations for these types of frankenstein vehicles to help keep people safe.

At Shapiro, Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, and Walsh, we have seen a lot of devastating vehicle accidents, but none as bad as the crash in New York. We hope that investigators are able to provide the families with much needed answers and lawmakers are able to find a way to regulate frankenstein vehicles to keep everyone on the road safe.

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