By Paul Kurtz

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — This week’s limousine fire in California that claimed the lives of a newlywed bride and four of her friends has been an eye-opener for limo companies and regulatory agencies across the country.

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It was a tragedy that shocked the nation (see related story).   Jennifer Kocher of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission says the California limo fire serves as a grim reminder about safety precautions, even for an industry that she has a remarkable record for safety.

“We don’t see nearly the number of problems with the limousine industry as we do with some of our other industries. Not that any of them are unsafe, but you have to rate them in some way, shape, or form, and the limousine industry consistently comes in as one of the safest.”

In Pennsylvania, limousine companies are not permitted to operate vehicles older than eight model years.

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Kocher says the PUC annually verifies companies’ insurance and carriers, and makes sure that all documents and inspections are in order.

“We also perform spot inspections,” she told KYW Newsradio, “meaning we go to areas such as a prom or something like that.  And after they’ve dropped their passengers off, we’re inspecting the vehicles.”

Kocher advises customers to do business only with certified limousine companies.

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