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Goodell Questions The Language In Limo Safety Bill

Republicans and Democrats alike have issues with legislation passed Tuesday that requires the use of seat belts by passengers aged 8 and older in taxis and livery vehicles, including stretch limousines.

The legislation passed the state Legislature on Tuesday and will be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature. But, during debate on A.8990, Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Assembly members from New York City all raised concerns about how the bill is written.

Goodell questioned Assemblyman William Magnarelli, D-Syracuse and sponsor of the legislation, about the bill’s breakdown of required seat belt use. The law says drivers can’t proceed unless all passengers between the ages of 8 and 16 are wearing a safety belt, and then in another section states anyone over the age of 16 has to wear a seat belt.

Goodell wondered why the seat belt requirement isn’t the same for all ages and why some responsibility is placed on parents for children while responsibility for adults is placed on drivers.

“First of all, we want everybody to buckle up,” Magnarelli said. “Everyone. The personal liability goes with someone who is 16 or older and who is basically being treated as an adult. Anyone below 16 is being treated as not being an adult. It’s the responsibility of the driver to make sure his or her passengers are restrained properly.”

Goodell said he would support the legislation even though it creates technical problems over how drivers should proceed in the field. Most children don’t carry identification, so taxi, limo or other drivers of for-hire vehicles could face responsibility for passengers without knowing it.

“Not everyone knows what age kids are when they climb into the cab or the Uber or the limo or whatever,” Goodell said. “I would just suggest that maybe a simpler approach would be to require everybody to take personal responsibility to buckle up rather than impose personal liability on the driver for a class of individuals who typically don’t have any ID.”

“With that as a friendly suggestion I still think overall I agree with my colleague that if more people buckle up we’re going to have fewer deaths on the highway.”

Three New York City-area Democrats also spoke up in support of the legislation while hoping that some technical corrections can be made before the legislation is sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature.

Assemblyman Victor Pichardo, D-Bronx; Assemblywoman Karines Reyes, D-Bronx; Assemblywoman Carmen de la Rosa, D-Northern Manhattan; and Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, D-Bronx; spoke on the floor of the Assembly in support of the bill despite concerns over the age limits in the bill.

“I represent a community where we have a lot of taxi and livery drivers and they have expressed their concerns with the language in this legislation being too broad,” Reyes said. “I will be supporting this legislation because I believe safety is important, but ultimately the burden should not be placed on the driver for decisions a passenger makes or parents of children who refuse to wear seat belts (make). Ultimately it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure the safety of their children and that burden should not be placed on drivers.”

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