Accidents involving limo party buses seem to be gaining more news coverage this year, as the media has caught on to what it sees as a “trend.” The grief surrounding the tragic deaths and injuries is often compounded by the fact that these accidents could have been avoided. In two high profile accidents in Kansas City, Mo., in May and near San Mateo, Calif., last summer, a young woman fell out of a party bus door and died.
I see three main contributors to such accidents scenarios that the industry must address if it wants to secure a good reputation for limo buses: More training, better vehicles, and rules that require passengers to sit down.
The days of just willy-nilly handing over the keys of a limousine to anyone with a pulse and calling him a driver are done. Too often, drivers or chauffeurs have little to no training for handling a partying group of passengers that be as many as 30.
In recent discussions with industry insurance carriers, I learned that underwriters are scrambling to provide training resources to limo companies to encourage safe and responsible operations. Underwriters are responsible for predicting the likelihood of a claim from those they insure based on numbers of claims from similar size operations and the cost of loss payouts. With the accidents involving chauffeured vehicles, the losses to the insurance companies will be huge. Of course, these losses will be passed on to you in coming years. So it behooves operators to implement strong training programs and safety procedures to protect passengers as well as shield your company from liability.
Just as alarming is the abundance of old, dingy, cheaply converted party buses. Many were never built for party clients. Some are run by legitimate limo operators while others are rolling illegally without business licenses and insurance. Such operators buy retired buses as a shell or “as-is” and then set up shop. The general public sees no distinction between licensed and unlicensed companies, and doesn’t know the differences among bus model years, makes, types and styles. When unlicensed or unscrupulous operators start working in your area, you need to report them and out them on social media and business websites with consumer ratings. We also need to promote the many high-quality and safe limo party buses that populate our trading floors at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas and LCT Show East in Atlantic City, while finding new ways to educate the public that these buses are the safest and most satisfying option. It is up to us to protect our industry’s integrity and image through self-policing, which means just that: Monitor your operations by running late-model equipment that is regularly maintained and inspected.
In the two accidents I cited above, both deaths resulted from passengers on their feet while the bus was in motion. Your chauffeurs and drivers must be able to distinguish between acceptable and unsafe behaviors. While party buses have been designed to create a dance party atmosphere with poles, neon-lit floors and ceilings and high powered sound systems, it simply isn’t safe for 25 people to be dancing in a moving bus. You don’t have to imagine what would happen in the event of sudden braking or a collision.
Operators should seriously consider a “pull-over policy” that requires them to stop the bus and find a safe place to park if passengers would like to dance aboard the bus. Bus concierges or “bartenders” may be another option for larger party buses, provided they are fun-loving and compatible with specific groups. And seatbelts are just common sense if people are drinking while the bus is moving.
In speaking with operators who have run party buses since they were introduced, I am pleased to hear that many are limiting passenger movement. This is a good start, but there is plenty of room for improvement. For party bus operators, your revenue and your reputation are on the line.