Chaperones to watch minors on party buses

Assemblyman Jerry Hill

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that will require a chaperone to be on board party buses when people under the legal drinking age are present. The law is aimed at curbing illegal alcohol consumption, which has proven to have deadly consequences.

The author of Assembly Bill 45, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, first became aware of the problem in 2010 when 19-year-old Brett Studebaker was killed in a car crash on U.S. Highway 101. The teen was driving home after several hours of drinking on a party bus in San Francisco. His blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit of .08.

The industry “doesn’t want to see deaths and accidents anymore than anyone else,” Hill said. “We worked together to give them some accountability of what’s going on behind them.”

The legislation, which goes into effect in January, requires party bus operators to check identification and confirm the ages of those on board. If there are patrons on the bus who are under the age of 21, there must be a chaperone who is at least 25 years old who is responsible to monitor those drinking. If at any time an underage patron is suspected of drinking, the trip can be canceled.

If operators do not comply, they could face up to $2,000 in fines and a license suspension or revocation. Bus drivers could face misdemeanor charges for noncompliance and chaperones could face misdemeanors if they are found to be serving alcohol to minors, according to the legislation.

The law closes a loophole on existing rules that require similar actions of limousines.

Hill said the legislation won’t hurt the industry, but instead gives it some much-needed regulation. He said it may change some teenagers’ plans.

“Partygoers who’ve used this illegally to consume alcohol as a minor, it may cramp their style and that’s a good thing,” he said.

The legislation should also help address some of the party bus complaints in The City, Hill said.

Members of the Entertainment Commission have previously told The San Francisco Examiner they are looking at ways to potentially regulate party buses, which generally drive people into The City and drop them off intoxicated at clubs and bars. Commissioners said AB 45 will not help them in their quest to create additional regulations, but it will help them start their discussions with the state.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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