we owe the Schoharie limo crash families a debt of thanks, and we owe them much more 

October 5, 2019

One year ago, families and communities from all across our region gathered in Amsterdam and Schoharie, New York to mourn an unspeakable tragedy. Tomorrow will mark one year since the fateful October day when 20 souls, beloved by their families, friends and community, were lost in the crash of a limousine that should never have been on the road.

No one has carried the wounds of this tragedy more than the families of the victims. And somehow, under the weight of an anguish most of us cannot begin to fathom, they found resolve.

The night of our vigil, as thousands of us stood by their sides, we heard and felt these families call for a response—beyond the thoughts and prayers of that moment, and driven towards strong, enforceable safety standards that would make this the last tragedy of its kind.

The Schoharie limo crash was one of the deadliest our nation has ever seen, but it was not the first. And if we fail to fix this broken system, there will be more like it. Federal limo safety standards must be strengthened, loopholes closed, and dangerous limousines taken off the road. 

The families of those lost in the limo crash have worked closely with me and my office for the past year, and this week I was proud to stand with them again, alongside my fellow public servants and friends U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and Congressman Antonio Delgado, to announce a bold plan for nationwide limousine safety reform. I am including an overview of those reforms at the end of this email, and you can find a detailed explanation of our legislative proposals here.

Tomorrow marks a painful moment of remembrance. A year from that tragic day when our community came together to mourn, to struggle to make sense of this loss and help each other find the shattered pieces of ourselves. Thousands of us stood beside the families that night and resolved to carry their call forward. On the shoulders of their strength and wisdom, we built a nationwide plan for transformative reform, but our work is far from done.

Kevin Cushing, whose son Patrick was lost to this terrible, preventable tragedy, spoke with an incomprehensible pain and depth in his voice to support this plan. I will never forget his words:

"We have always asked [our children] to do the right thing and do the safe thing and they were doing that. They were making the right choices but the laws as they currently exist were not protecting them."

America’s limousine safety laws must be strengthened. We have a plan now to fix the laws, but there are many battles ahead in our fight to ensure that no community is forced to endure this kind of preventable tragedy again.

We owe it to these families, to the memory of the loved ones they lost, and to one another to get this right. We cannot, and I will not, leave their sides until our fight for these essential, life-saving reforms is won.

As always, thank you for reading.

Your friend,

The SAFE Limos Act (Safety, Accountability, and Federal Enforcement of Limos Act of 2019)

1. Requires that limousines have safety belts for every designated seating position and adhere to federal standards for seats and seat assemblies

2. Closes the loophole that currently allows used vehicles to be converted into limousines without meeting federal safety standards

3. Requires limousine manufacturers to submit “vehicle modifier plans” detailing how they will comply with strict federal standards

4. Directs research into side impact protection, roof crush resistance, and air bag systems for protection of occupants based on various seating configurations

5. Requires NHTSA to conduct research and issue standards that can aid egress and regress in the event that a primary exit from the limousine’s passenger compartment is blocked

6. Requires limousine operators to prominently display last inspection dates, results & correctives 

The Take Unsafe Limos Off the Road Act

7. Establishes a grant award for states with policies to impound or immobilize unsafe limousines 

The End the Limo Loophole Act

8. Updates “Commercial Motor Vehicle” definition to include vehicles modified to seat 15+ people

9. Requires Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to reinstate state limo inspection requirements