One weekend night, police in Pacific Beach in San Diego came upon a party bus with drunken teenagers spilling out and falling down on the pavement. The police boarded the bus and found more alcohol than at a Super Bowl party. “Girls Gone Wild” videos flashed on a flat screen and some of the drunken girls were so scantily clad that one officer said he was embarrassed to look at them. To top it off, there was a stripper pole on the bus.
Cops began talking to other cops, and they found that this wasn’t an isolated incident. High school kids and underage college kids are using party buses as underage drinking parties on wheels, and nobody is checking IDs. A police officer said that party buses are getting to be a big problem, as teens from affluent neighborhoods pool their money to rent a bus, ostensibly to go to an event, but really just to drive around and drink. Party buses also pick up underage college kids to take them to 18+ clubs and let them drink on the way. A young person who works with a prevention agency said she called a party bus company and asked if it was OK if minors drank on board. No problem, she was told.
What’s the big deal? At least they’re not driving, you say? Except they are. Party buses pick up and drop people at centralized locations. And how do they get there? That’s right – a lot of them drive. But DUI isn’t the only problem caused by underage drinking. Nearly 100,000 sexual assaults, 600,000 injuries and 700,000 assaults are caused by college drinking each year.
In the past, party buses fell into a gray area. They’re not an alcohol outlet, public place or a home, so they don’t fall under laws that govern underage drinking in those places. But recently, the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates party buses, joined with the San Diego Police, Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement in a DUI checkpoint that also targeted party buses and limousines. In addition to DUI busts, they inspected 12 buses and limos, wrote up seven violations and impounded one bus. Maybe that will send a message to the party bus companies. Party bus companies need to be held responsible if they let kids drink on board.