Riding a limousine in California will be safer soon.
The changes come in the wake of a limousine fire on the San Mateo bridge in 2013. Nine women inside a Lincoln town car were celebrating a bridal shower. Once it caught fire, four of the women escaped, five were trapped and died.
The California Highway Patrol called it an accident. Months later, change was in the works at the Capitol.
By October 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring limousines have additional emergency exits.
They’re required to have two rear side doors and at least one pop-out window.
Drivers will also be required to explain safety procedures to passengers.
The law is supposed to go into effect this month for new limos and January 2016 for existing vehicles.
At About Time Limousine in Sacramento all of Larry Weininger’s Limos have five doors.
“Even before the accident, I’ve taken some steps in my cars to kind of put out the fire before it even has a chance to start,” Weininger said.
He feels prepared, but predicts statewide changes will hurt small businesses. They’ll have to invest thousands of dollars to adapt to the new requirements.
The question now is: when will the changes be enforced?
“It didn’t seem very fair at all to the industry to make them comply with a rule before the rules were event given to them,” said Assemblymember Bill Dodd.
Assemblymember Dodd authored new legislation which would give limousine operators more time to comply with the law.
“It still promotes public safety but it makes clear and gives clear guidelines and a timing that works really well with the limousine industry,” said Dodd.
AB 863 would essentially give companies an extra year to add emergency exits to their existing vehicles.
The Greater California Livery Association supports the call for safety.
“We are actively working with the CHP to help design safety measures to help take care of our customers,” said GCLA spokesperson, Dave Kinney.
Nothing can change what happened on the San Mateo Bridge more than two years ago, but new regulations are on the way to prevent another tragedy.
Under AB 863, The CHP is responsible for inspection and enforcement of the law.
A CHP spokesperson told FOX40 it’s premature to comment on pending legislation.
FOX40 also reached out relatives of the limo fire victims. They said they’re unable to comment because their lawsuit is pending.