Renting a party bus or a stretch limo may seem like a safe alternative to driving when a group of friends wants to go out and hit the town or visit a winery in the Hudson Valley. But, while drinking and driving is never a smart option, riding in a party bus or stretch limo may be almost as dangerous.
There have been a number of high-profile stretch limo/party bus accidents in the last few years. Most famously, actor/comedian Tracy Morgan was gravely injured when a fatigued driver caused a multi-vehicle crash on the New Jersey Turnpike in 2014. The pileup caused the Mercedes Sprinter minibus Morgan was riding in to flip over, injuring the Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock star and killing a fellow comedian, James McNair.
In 2018, the tiny town of Schoharie, New York, was the site of a shocking tragedy, when a stretch limo accident took the lives of 17 passengers, the limo’s driver, and two pedestrians. Seven of the victims were siblings. It was later revealed that the vehicle had failed a state safety inspection, and that the driver was not licensed to operate the vehicle.
Inherent Dangers of These Vehicles
Atmosphere: Stretch limousines and party buses are inherently dangerous for a number of reasons. One danger of vehicles like party buses and stretch limos is the atmosphere. Many of these vehicles feature disco lights, quality stereo systems, and alcohol. Such an environment encourages riders to abandon common sense practices they would normally adhere to while riding in a passenger vehicle. Instead of remaining seated with seatbelts buckled, they have a tendency to stand, walk around, dance, etc. Such behavior can be deadly in an accident or when a driver performs maneuvers like sudden turns or stops. In the Schoharie incident mentioned above, it’s been reported that none of the limo’s occupants were wearing a seatbelt. In another New York tragedy, a 24-year-old man riding in a party bus stood up to change the music. The bus took a sudden turn, tossing the man out through the side door of the bus. He was struck by other vehicles and killed.
Security: Inadequate security and supervision are another safety issue, particularly when alcohol, or young people, are involved. It’s well known that young people are prone to poor judgement on the road, and the same can be said about people that are impaired by alcohol. A 16-year-old New York boy was killed while celebrating a friend’s birthday on a double-decker party bus. He ignored printed warning signs and stuck his head out of an emergency escape hatch on the roof of the bus, just as it was passing beneath the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. The bus had a security guard, but he’d momentarily gone down to the lower level when the accident occurred.
Frankenstein Vehicles: Possibly the most dangerous aspect of stretch limos and party buses is their construction. Most of these vehicles are not factory direct. They are regular limousines or S.U.V.s that have been cut in half, and their bodies expanded on the top, bottom, and sides. Modern motor vehicles are designed to be protective cages, keeping the vehicle’s occupants relatively safe in most accidents. When a limo or S.U.V. is expanded, it loses much of the structural integrity it is originally built with. Such “Frankenstein” vehicles are more prone to breaking apart, collapsing, being crushed, etc. In addition, safety features like airbags and seatbelts are often removed. Additional seating may be added, often along the sides of the vehicle. This makes the vehicle’s occupants exceedingly vulnerable to injury or death in the event of a crash.
We at New York City’s Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, want you to be safe when out socializing with friends. In the unfortunate event that you’ve been injured or lost a family member in a stretch limo or party bus accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. To find out more about your legal rights and options, call (212) 986-7353 for a free case evaluation. At Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, you pay no upfront costs or retainers. We only get paid if we win your case.