Danger Can Lurk Beneath Limo's Glamour

ByABC News via logo
May 17, 2006, 3:34 PM

May 18, 2006 — -- Prom season -- and wedding season -- is here, which means lots of limousines will be rented. Limos are glamorous, but if the company you choose isn't properly registered or insured and the driver isn't properly licensed, your trip could be dangerous instead.

"Good Morning America's" consumer correspondent Elisabeth Leamy went undercover with Virginia DMV special agents, looking for unlicensed, unsafe limos. Out of the 29 cars the police checked that night, nine were in violation and racked up a total of 22 citations.

In Virginia on prom nights, limos encounter dozens of DMV police checkpoints where they must present their driver's license, registration and trip sheet. This state conducts one of the most aggressive limo safety enforcement programs in the country.

"Well, they ultimately could be involved in a very serious accident and the children could perish because of that," said Virginia DMV official Bruce Taylor. "And that's what we're trying to avoid."

Virginia requires drivers to have a special license if they want to drive the super-long cars. The cars themselves need to have a safety inspection sticker, which is the public's guarantee that the vehicle is well-maintatined.

Overcrowding is another safety hazard. Some limousine companies try to make extra money by carrying more passengers than their cars are designed for. To find out how many passengers the car is supposed to hold, count the number of seatbelts.

Police are also checking for alcohol. In Virginia, it's illegal for a limo to carry any alcohol if the passengers are underage. On the night that Leamy went with the police, they administed a sobriety test to a driver they thought had been drinking. He had a chilled sixpack of beer in his trunk.

This was upsetting to a mother riding in one of the limos as a chaperone for the prom-goers.

"I mean that just tells me something, that you can't trust them," Karoline Hurd said. "It's something that we all want to and hope to do, but that's scary."