New law aims to curb underage party bus drinking


The new law came about after a 19-year-old from Burlingame was killed two years ago, driving home after drinking on a party bus.

Then Assemblyman and now State Senator Jerry Hill named the bill for the teenager, Brett Studebaker. Hill says the new law will hold the party bus driver responsible for underage drinking.

"The drivers now of buses, if they see or condone or ignore alcohol being consumed by minors on the bus, they will be subject to a misdemeanor similar to what limousine drivers are today," Senator Hill said.

Another deadly party bus incident occurred earlier this year. A 25-year-old Santa Cruz woman was killed after she and a minor fell out of a party bus. The victim died after being run over on Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Passengers on the bus had been drinking.

The new law also requires a chaperone 25 years or older if minors are party bus passengers to stop underage drinking. However, the CHP's role in enforcement is limited.

"If we stop them for any moving violation or mechanical violation, then that's when we'd be able to enforce that law," CHP Officer D.J. Sarabia said. When asked about spot checks, he answered, "Not sure if that's going to be on the table right now. We haven't gotten any direction from upper management, but that's a possibility."

Senator Hill believes the operators of party buses won't be in business long if they don't follow the new law.

"If they violate this, their license will be suspended," Senator Hill said. "It can be revoked so they can no longer have party buses, number one. And number two, they could no longer have their bus business that they have today. So the sanctions and penalties are severe."

Party bus drivers could be hit with a $2,000 fine if they don't comply with the law. They also will be responsible for verifying the age of anyone under the age of 21.

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