Investigation into safety of stretch limousines

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Earlier this week, we learned that stretch limousines are made by cutting in half an original limo and adding expanded roof, floor and sides as seen in this video posted on the website of one of the largest builders of modified passenger vehicles. The problem, according to a leading car safety expert, is that once you stretch and modify the body structure, the vehicle falls within a regulatory gap.

"There are no additional crash test requirements. There's not any kind of dynamic testing evaluation done on these products at the end of the day and the only way we know how they perform is when they crash in the real world," said Sean Kane, of Research Safety Analysis.

Last weekend, the stretched limo did not perform well when protecting the eight young women against a side impact. Eyewitness News asked Suffolk County's Prosecutor Friday if that's something they're looking at.

"We are focusing on that as well, you are absolutely correct, there is very little protection," said Thomas Spota, Suffolk County District Attorney.

Dave Lipsky of Authority Fleet Services modifies and repairs limos on Long Island. He showed Eyewitness News how there is very little structural protection along the expanded side of a stretch that was brought in to be fixed, just one steel bar separating passengers from a side collision.

Lipsky says the safest builders will put in three steel crash protection bars in the side of the stretch limos. But few builders, he says, go that far and he confirms what the safety expert told Eyewitness News, that rarely are they ever crash tested.

"I don't think anyone can find a video or document anywhere showing the testing done on a vehicle side impact since 1998. It doesn't exist," Lipsky said.

Once in a awhile, the large maker of limos will do a crash test but they are usually head-on tests, rarely a side-collision test.
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