CLEAN UP THE PARTY BUS: Operator Seeks Tougher Rules

Posted on October 6, 2010 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

Some party bus and limousine operators in Oklahoma allow minors to drink alcohol in their vehicles, limousine company owner tells a House panel.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — A new law that makes it a misdemeanor crime for party bus operators to allow underage drinking in their vehicles doesn't go far enough and should be toughened, a limousine operator told a House panel Tuesday.

Charles Cotton, owner of VIP Limousine in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, said owners of party bus and limousine services who allow minors to drink alcohol while riding in their vehicles should be charged with a felony.

"Some of these people (operators) are out of control,” Cotton said. “It’s all about greed and money. We need to get these operators off the streets once and for all.”

Some of the operators of the party buses — usually old school buses that have been renovated — aren't licensed and don't have necessary insurance, he said.

Unscrupulous operators many times are from out of state and come to Oklahoma during prom and football seasons, Cotton said. The penalties now are not much of a risk for illicit operators, he said.

Senate Bill 1762, which takes effect Nov. 1, makes it a misdemeanor for the operator of a party bus or limousine company to allow underage drinking. The owner of the vehicle would be fined $500 and upon a second or subsequent conviction the owner could lose the operating license for one year.

Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, filed the legislation after she said she heard about teenagers the previous year being dropped off at Santa Fe South High School's prom who appeared to be intoxicated. She originally proposed operators lose their license for up to two years and be fined up to $1,000.

Party bus and limousine operators are not allowed to sell or provide alcohol or beer in their vehicles, Jim Hughes, assistant director of the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission, told members of the House of Representatives Public Safety Committee.

"We're not sure we want to license them either to do that,” he said. "Then we would have these traveling bars and it would be very difficult to monitor.”

Hughes said his agency has heard that some operators have furnished 3.2 beer in their vehicles.

Most party bus and limousine operators allow passengers over the legal drinking age of 21 to bring their own alcoholic beverages or beer with them, and they're supposed to make sure anyone under 21 does not partake, Hughes said.

It's difficult for drivers of the vehicles while focusing their attention on the road to make sure minors aren't drinking.

It's typical for Oklahoma college students to rent out a party bus to take them from campus to bars, Cotton said. It's questionable whether the driver checks to make sure all the passengers are at least 21.

Rep. Wallace Collins, D-Norman, who conducted Tuesday's interim study, said he may resubmit a measure that would prohibit party buses and limousines from having anyone under 21 in their vehicles if beer and alcohol is on board.

Source: The Oklahoman/

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