Teen's death prompts new "party bus" legislation

December 22, 2010 6:51:15 PM PST
The parents of a teenager killed after a night of drinking on a party bus want tighter controls on the chartered buses to prevent under-age drinking.

Chartered party buses can hold as many as 55 people. As they cruise the streets, the passengers usually are drinking. The problem comes, when the night ends.

Last February, 19-year-old Brett Studebaker died after celebrating a friend's 21st birthday on a party bus. After getting off the party bus at the end of the night, police say he drove his car into a sound wall. His blood alcohol was three times the legal limit.

"Party buses, booze cruises, they're deadly for our kids, by speaking we want to save lives," Brett's father Doug Studebaker said at a Wednesday news conference.

Studebaker's parents and two sisters joined Assm. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, Wednesday to urge passage of a bill that will put party buses under stringent, under-age drinking rules that already apply to limousines.

"I think that kids and the operators of these buses know the loophole, understand it and are taking advantage of it today," Hill said.

Hill's bill would put the onus on the bus driver to identify under-age passengers and have them sign an agreement not to drink alcohol. If they do, the party bus ride ends.

However, operators say their drivers really need to focus on safe driving with eyes on the road, not on the passengers.

"The driver's who responsible for driving the bus safely, it doesn't seem reasonable how he could keep track of what is going on as to who is drinking what in the back of the bus," attorney Damien Morozumi said. Morozumi represents Hobo Limo, the company being sued by the Studebaker family for their son's death.

Other operators say they do not want to act as babysitters. One would like to see chaperones on board.

"I often urge them to have a chaperone, not to say somebody way older than them, but someone that is at least 21 years old that knows the group and can control the group," Curtis Pettway of Galactic Transporter said.

The proposed law is named for Brett Studebaker. If passed, infractions result in a $2,000 fine. The third time it happens, the company's operating license would be revoked.


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