A Los Angeles assemblyman on Monday introduced new legislation in Sacramento that would create new, stricter oversight of the Hollywood celebrity tour van industry.
The proposal by Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks) comes after an NBC4 undercover investigation raised serious questions about the safety of the popular "open top" vans that carry thousands of tourists into the star-studded neighborhoods of the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills every week.
I-Team cameras revealed how many of the vans have had seat belts altered or removed altogether, putting passengers at risk in the case of a crash.
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NBC4 also showed how modifying the vans to turn them into "convertibles" could undermine the structural integrity of the vehicles, a weakness that car designers say could prove fatal in the case of a rollover crash.
In response to the I-Team investigation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent special orders to "open top" tour van operators, advising them that the federal government considers the vehicles to be unsafe in their present condition, and urging them to stop transporting passengers.
An I-Team follow-up report found that despite the NHTSA special order, tour operators continue to carry hundreds of tourists aboard the vans every day.
Nazarian's spot bill, a bare-bones measure that will later be dealt with, is aimed at improving oversight of a highly unregulated industry, in order to increase public safety. The proposed legislation would:
- Implement a new state certification program for open-air tour vans that would guarantee their structural soundness
- Prohibit the removal of seatbelts from open-air tour vans
- Require passengers of open-air tour vans wear seatbelts
- Require open-air tour van operators inform passengers that the NHTSA has determined the vehicles could be unsafe in the event of a rollover crash
- Restrict tour routes
- Allow law enforcement to revoke tour operators' permits if they violate the law
The proposed legislation now goes to committee. A bill is expected to be presented for a vote by the California State Legislature in 2017.
Next year, Nazarian plans to introduce another bill to regulate the behavior of Hollywood tour guides.
The I-Team investigation revealed how some guides lie to tourists about the locations of celebrity homes. Los Angeles police say some passengers have returned to the addresses given during the tours to "meet" celebrities "in person."
One homeowner described to the I-Team how one "crazed fan" has visited his home several times after being falsely told during a tour that the house was the residence of actress Julia Roberts. The homeowner, who is not involved in the entertainment industry, says this "fan" has assaulted him twice.
The second bill would require tour guides to obtain a license, and prohibit them from providing misinformation to tourists.