Assemblyman urges lawmakers to pass party bus bill

July 2, 2012 8:18:39 PM PDT
State legislation that would make party bus operators accountable for underage drinking is a step closer to becoming law. Tuesday, a state Senate committee takes up the bill which is named after a teenager who was killed after a night on the town in a party bus.

Assm. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, calls party buses "booze cruises" and "parties on wheels."

"Neon lighting, sound systems, dance floors, lounging areas and even dancing poles," he explained.

When 19-year-old Brett Studebaker got off a party bus two years ago, his alcohol level was three times the legal limit to drive. He was killed when he crashed his car into a sound wall on Highway 101 near San Mateo.

"Brett, after being on the bus for several hours and having an alcohol level that high...and just dropped off at his car to fend for himself," Brett's mother, Linda Studebaker, said.

Hill wants party bus operators to be held accountable for underage drinking on their buses. His bill would require operators to verify ahead of time if there are minors aboard. Buses would also have adult supervision.

"The group on the bus will be required to have a chaperone on board over the age of 25 to ensure that underage drinking is not occurring," Hill said.

Bus operators who fail to comply could be fined, have their license suspended or revoked. They could even be charged with a misdemeanor.

Community groups and police say something needs to be done.

"Mixing drinks right on board; the young folks come off the buses terribly inebriated, hardly able to stand up," Community Leadership Alliance spokesperson David Villa-Lobos said.

"That creates fights, it also makes it easier for these people to become victims of other crimes," San Francisco Police Lt. Colleen Fatooh said.

Many in the business oppose the legislation, saying the organizers of the parties should be held accountable.

Will Low owns Party Bus, which charters out a dozen or more buses nationwide every weekend.

"The driver's job is to get you from Point A to Point B safely," he said. "If the driver thinks he's going to get fined, penalized, whatever, his chain of thought will be on that as well."

There is already a law in place that holds limousine operators accountable.


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