Following a fatal limousine fire on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that he has signed a measure to boost safety on roadways by requiring additional exits in the passenger compartments of the vehicles.
Senate Bill 109 by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, came after the bridge fire claimed the lives of five women in May and a separate accident a month later in which 10 women escaped serious injuries in Walnut Creek.
Corbett said in a statement that her bill will protect limousine passengers in emergencies.
"This important bill requires additional exit points to prevent a future tragedy similar to the one that occurred on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge last May," Corbett said.
"When traveling to a wedding, birthday, prom or other occasion, it is vital that limo passengers remain safe so that these celebrations do not turn into tragedies," she added. "I appreciate the support of my legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle - as well as Governor Brown - for supporting this legislation that will offer limo passengers the peace of mind that they will be able to evacuate these vehicles quickly and safely."
The bill requires limo operators to instruct passengers on the safety features. It applies to all new limos after July 1, 2015, and includes a two-and-a-half year phase-in period for all other limos.
Brown vetoed related legislation, Senate Bill 338, which would have required the California Highway Patrol to inspect limos on an annual basis and change $75 for the service. The governor said the fee would not cover the cost of the inspections.
"Riding in a limousine should be free from dangers that can be avoided with an annual safety inspection," Brown wrote in the veto message. "I already signed SB 109 this year that sets basic requirements for emergency escape windows. I call on the Legislature to send me urgency legislation next January with the same provisions except authorizing the CHP to change a fee for the actual cost to perform the inspections."
PHOTO: San Mateo County firefighters and California Highway Patrol investigate the scene of a limousine fire on the westbound side of the San Mateo-Hayward bridge in Foster City, California, on Saturday, May 4, 2013. Five women died. Oakland Tribune/Jane Tyska