California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill over the weekend tightening the state's rules on party buses.
Assembly Bill 45, which passed both the state senate and assembly without opposition late last month, was introduced by Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) and is designed to address the growing popularity of alcohol-fueled parties on privately chartered buses.
Hill's bill clarified the existing regulations, which were murky at best. Now, chartered party buses carrying minors will be required to have a chaperone to ensure no underage boozing happens onboard. Said chaperone will be held liable if any does occur.
The chaperones are not the only ones who could be get in trouble if someone sneaks in some illicit Four Loko. If one vehicle operator has three violations happen on his or her watch, they could be slapped with a misdemeanor. Bus companies could also be hit with fines up to $2,000 for their first two offenses and see their operating licenses revoked for a third strike.
Similar rules have been in place for limousines since the late 1980s, when a spate of incidents involving minors consuming drugs and alcohol while onboard pushed the state to impose enforcements.
Until this year, party buses have operated in a legal grey area, largely because the phenomenon is still relatively new.
The bill was inspired by the 2010 death of 19-year-old San Mateo teenager Brent Studebaker, who fatally crashed into a sound wall on Highway 101 after spending the evening drinking on a party bus.
Underage individuals were also involved in a shocking incident earlier this year, during which a 25-year old woman was killed after falling out of a party bus going 45 mph on the highway in the midst of a drunken fight.
"These incidents caused me to say, why could these things be happening?" Hill explained to the San Jose Mercury News. "When these tragedies occurred a couple of years ago, what this new legislation hoped to do was to close that loophole and provide the same restrictions on buses as it does to limousines."
Party buses aren't only drawing the ire of legislators looking out for the kids. Many club owners in San Francisco have grown increasingly fed up with the vehicles.
"Most clubs I know say 'no' to party buses," Steven Lee, owner of The Grand nightclub and member of the San Francisco Entertainment Commission said at a public meeting on the issue earlier this year. "People do all their drinking on the buses and it's not a benefit to the club. We have to deal with all the security and all the hassle without any of the benefit."
The new law goes into effect on January 1.