Many people think of limousines as just expanded cars or SUVs, however that is not the case. There are numerous changes made to the vehicles, which can make them behave differently from typical passenger vehicles, both on the road and in a crash. One of the most obvious is the configuration of the interior of the vehicle. In most passenger vehicles, occupants are seated facing forward and have lap and shoulder seatbelts to secure them in their seats. Frequently, when re-configured as a limousine, the additional seats added include side and rear facing positions. These pose different challenges for protecting occupants in the event of a crash. In most cases, these added seat positions are only equipped with lap belts, which only provide pelvic restraint, without any restraint for the upper torso. Historically, some limousine builders have done a poor job incorporating lap belts. In investigating limousine crashes, lap belts were found to be improperly anchored, and in some cases, attached to plywood with a wood screw and washer, or installed with very poor geometry. While many of the poor designs have been improved upon, lap belts are still limited in their ability to provide protection to occupants in a crash.
The seating capacity of the limousine presents additional issues. There are numerous concerns created by increasing the number of passengers in the vehicle. One is simply the weight of the occupants. When the seating capacity doubles from 5 or 6 to 10 or 12, so does the weight of passengers. In addition, the curb weight of the vehicle increases due to the added vehicle length. In some cases, the weight of the limousine, with a full passenger load, exceeds the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle. This added weight effects the vehicle handling as well as the ability to stop the vehicle. Some limousine builders try to address this by placing a limit on the number of occupants in the vehicle. This is done by both the number of seatbelts in the vehicle as well as labeling the occupant capacity of the limousine. In some cases, this results in portions of a bench or couch type seat, which are not “designated seating positions,” and should not be used when the vehicle is in motion. However, this “extra” seating allows both operators and occupants to comfortably exceed the allowable capacity of the limousine, resulting in a heavier vehicle where some occupants do not have access to a seatbelt. Continue reading “Occupant Protection in Limousines”