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State commission overseeing limo industry criticized

In May 2013, several people were killed in a California limousine accident on the San Mateo Bridge. The limo was carrying nine women who were celebrating a recent wedding when it bursted into flames.

The California Highway Patrol investigated and found that the fire resulted from a catastrophic failure involving the rear suspension system.

After the fire began, the limo became a fiery inferno on wheels, and the women were trapped inside. Eventually, four of the women were able to escape by crawling through the divider-window between the driver’s area and the back, but five of the women were not as lucky.

After the tragedy, state officials began looking closer at the government body responsible for overseeing passenger carriers such as limousines. Last week, a state auditor concluded that the Transportation Enforcement Branch of the California Public Utilities Commission has not been doing its job.

The auditor said that the commission has failed to protect consumers by not insuring that carriers have permits, carry insurance or partake in safety programs. The auditor also said that the commission has not responded appropriately to consumer complaints and does not collect the fees it is entitled to.

The tragedy last May and other incidents were mentioned in the auditor’s report, which highlighted the lack of leadership and oversight efforts within the commission.

We have many layers of government in place that are supposed to keep the public safe. However, when one of those layers is not doing its job, tragedy can result, as we learned from the May 2013 accident.

When people are hurt or killed because of government negligence, it can be held civilly liable, just like any other person or non-government entity.

Source: Associated Press, “Audit: California agency not ensuring limo safety,” June 17, 2014

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