State Sen. Ellen Corbett

LEGISLATURE | Government is notoriously sluggish. But, just months after five women perished while trapped in a horrific limousine fire on the San Mateo Bridge, a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Friday will increase the number of exit points on vehicles, in case a similar accident ever occurs.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett offered the bill following the May 10 limousine fire that killed five passengers on their way to a bridal shower in the East Bay. The incident was followed by a near accident in June involving 10 elderly women en route to a birthday party. “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,” Corbett said in a statement.

Starting in July 2015, licensed limousine operators will be required to install push out windows on all new vehicles on either side of the rear compartment or rooftop. The new law also allows existing limousines a phasing-in period of two-and-a-half years to add additional exit points. An investigation into the San Mateo Bridge limo fire detailed passengers in the rear of the vehicle struggled to exit the burning limo. Some were pulled through a front-facing window, while other did not make it out in time. Limo operators will also be required to instruct passengers on the new safety features before the beginning of any trip under the new law.

A similar bill pertaining to the May limo fire would have required the California Highway Patrol to charge limousine operators $75 to perform vehicle safety inspections was vetoed by Brown Friday. In his veto message, Brown encouraged the authors, led by San Mateo Assemblyman Jerry Hill, to reintroduce the bill next January with a larger fee commensurate with the actual cost of performing the inspections.