California limo fire prompts safety concern in Chicago

May 6, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Five women were killed in the limo fire and four others were injured in that fire. As officials investigate the cause of the fire, prom and wedding season is in full swing.

Joe Damato, who has been driving limousines in the Chicago area for 30 years, is convinced all types of limos are safe- as long as they are licensed in the city.

"Overall, like I said, I don't think the city or the state can do much more to protect the consumer," Damato said.

Drivers say the city goes beyond what the state requires, especially when it comes to the stretch limo.

"We are very careful about what we license and what we don't. Limousines in the city must be stretched using quality vehicle modification standards," Rosemary Krimbel, commissioner, department of business affairs, said.

Krimbel said if a limo is stretched illegally, people could get trapped if something should happen like the horrific limousine fire in California. The city of Chicago only allows stretch limos that come from Ford, Lincoln and Cadillac. To get a Chicago chauffeurs license, drivers must get an annual physical as well as drug and visions tests.

"You've got some places like the city of Chicago that does a great job of policing these people, but when you get outside of Chicago into different parts of the state, and it's different," Jeff Kross, personal injury attorney, said.

Personal injury attorney Jeff Kroll has represented victims of limo accidents. He says consumers must do their homework before ordering a limo, and with prom season coming up, the city advises limo customers to do their part as well.

"People like to party and put a lot of people in a limousine. It's like clowns in a clown car. The more you put in the less safe you are. Make sure you have seatbelts for everybody in the back seat," Krimbel said.

In Chicago, only eight people are allowed inside stretch limos.

To tell if a limo is licensed in the city, the license plate must start with an LI and the number must be between 7000 and 9999. If the limo's license plate has only five digits, the limo is not licensed by the city.

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