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Brides Beware: Limos Are Catching Fire in the Bay Area

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We prefer to talk about happy news during Weddings Week, but a pair of recent limo accidents in the Bay Area has us thinking about safety. In early May, a limousine crossing the San Mateo bridge caught fire, tragically trapping and killing a new bride and four passengers. Four other passengers plus the driver escaped. It seemed like a freak accident until last week when another limo in Walnut Creek carrying 10 elderly women, most of them 90+ years old, also caught fire. Luckily the women managed to escape before the limo went up in flames.

Two incidents may not be a trend, but they are also not isolated. According to CBS Local, U.S. Department of Transportation data shows five people died in three separate limo accidents in 2010, and 21 died in three more limo accidents in 2011.

No one knows yet exactly what caused the fires, but if you plan on renting a limo for any part of you wedding celebration, here are some things to look out for:

1. Make sure the vehicle isn't carrying more passengers than it's licensed for. The limo involved in the May 4 incident carried nine passengers, but it was only allowed to seat eight.

2. Rent a limo that's licensed for 10 or more passengers. All limos that carry 10 or more people are regularly inspected by the California Highway Patrol, but smaller ones are only required to obtain a license from the California Public Utilities Commission.

3. Check the company's records. Town Car SF, the company involved in the Walnut Creek incident, had no safety citations, but it did have two administrative suspensions in 2011, one for not having workers' comp insurance on file, and a second for not having liability insurance on file. If a company is negligent in one category, they may be in others.

East Bay lawmaker Ellen Corbett has introduced legislation that would require two rear exit door in a limos' passenger compartment, and two windows that passengers could push out from inside in a fire or other emergency.
· 5 Women Killed, 4 Injured in Limo Fire on San Mateo Bridge [Racked SF]
· All Weddings Week posts [Racked]