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Party buses offer many advantages, such as safety poles and keeping drunk drivers off the road.
We could have all seen this coming. Businesses provide a valuable service that a few customers abuse, resulting in criminal incidents and accidental deaths. Media coverage goes viral. Politicians and activists call for safety crackdowns. Regulatory ideas multiply, and before you know it, the service provided by the businesses gets strangled out of existence.
This could happen to the lucrative party limo bus market, a popular service niche that generates growing revenue for chauffeured transportation companies. With some high profile party bus deaths and the recent case of underage drunken teens trashing a party bus on Long Island, N.Y., the calls for crackdowns are mounting. The party buses are being blamed for one of the oldest human foibles: Drinking too much.
The irony here is the party bus market evolved as an alternative to drunken driving. The rate of alcohol-impaired fatalities has declined 64% since 1982. You can credit more enforcement and awareness, but the use of party buses contributed as well. Operators also have figured out a way to provide an engaging, entertaining experience in all types of elaborately designed limo buses from among a choice of coachbuilders. These buses often are fully tricked out with sound systems, lights, poles, comfortable seats, bars, and in some cases, a restroom.
As regulators get antsy, operators have a choice. They can react, complain and retreat into a defensive crouch, or come up with a plan to take control of the problem and manage it. Some compromises may be necessary, but the big picture means keeping the party bus market vibrant as a valued and legitimate way to get around. Many retail-oriented operators depend on this market. Below are some recommended standard operating practices and/or models for legislation:
Option 1: All alcohol is prohibited onboard a limo bus if anyone aboard is below the legal drinking age of 21. The client renting the limo bus must be required to prove that all passengers will be 21 or older if alcohol is being served, and the operator needs to secure the proof and keep it on file. Underage passengers always should have their bags, jackets, or backpacks inspected before boarding.
Option 2: California’s chaperone law can serve as a model for other states. Effective Jan. 1, 2013, limousine operators may require a chaperone age 25 or older to be present and responsible to ensure legal drinking on a party bus. Otherwise, the limousine operator must hire one or check IDs and verify the ages of passengers. Rich Azzolino, president of the Greater California Livery Association, told me operators have grown to like this law because it takes them off the liability hook. The last thing a limo operator wants is for his chauffeur to double as a bouncer, or pay the labor costs of an attendant on each party bus.