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OUR OPINION: Party bus crackdown sure to be coming soon

Is the party over for party buses in North Dakota and Minnesota? That depends on the operators' response. If the operators are smart, they'll get out in front of the rulemaking and propose regulations that their industry can live with and profit ...

Our Opinion
Our Opinion

Is the party over for party buses in North Dakota and Minnesota?

That depends on the operators' response. If the operators are smart, they'll get out in front of the rulemaking and propose regulations that their industry can live with and profit under.

So, put it this way: The Wild West party days for party buses almost certainly are coming to an end. And that's true not only on the two banks of the Red River, but also in other states.

Sure, party buses still will be on the road when the regulating's done. But the industry's long-term reputation, insurability and profitability depend on what happens between now and then. And on that score, party bus operators should recognize society's key concerns and act on them now.

As rolling, enclosed platforms, party buses take advantage of multiple loopholes in the law. Their walls keep the parties out of police and public view. Their movement means the parties don't generate noise complaints.

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And because the operators aren't either selling alcohol-customers usually provide their own-or taking people from Point A to Point B, the buses don't have to comply with liquor laws, bar laws or interstate transportation laws.

The result has been called Las Vegas on wheels. In some states, the buses are places where "anything goes"-including underage drinking-and where "what happens on the bus, stays on the bus," as multiple YouTube videos suggest (before showing much of what goes on).

But if you think such an environment is one that's asking for trouble, you'd be right. Since 2009, party bus incidents have resulted in at least 21 deaths, a report commissioned by the state of Washington found in 2014. These and other incidents often are horrific:

▇ In California, partying teens were standing up on an open-air, double-decker bus, "so high that they had to duck for overpasses," the Los Angeles Times reported last year.

A young man-16 years old, and a varsity tennis player-failed to duck and was killed.

▇ In Oregon, Angie Hernandez fell out of the emergency window of a party bus, then died after being run over by the bus' rear wheels. She was 11.

▇ When a Kansas City party bus "hit a bump while rounding a curve, one passenger, 26-year-old Jamie Frecks, tumbled through the rear doors and into oncoming traffic," a newsletter for limo, charter and tour operators noted.

"She was pronounced dead at the scene."

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▇ In the Twin Cities, meanwhile, a girl who'd been 17 at the time "admitted to stripping on party buses at the man's direction," a recent Herald story reported.

"After a week of stripping, she began performing sexual acts during the parties."

No wonder lawmakers from the Grand Forks City Council to the Minneapolis city attorney to the states of Kansas and Nebraska now are talking about party-bus rules.

In California and the state of Washington, new laws already are in place. Under the California law, "chartered party buses carrying minors will be required to have a chaperone to ensure no underage boozing happens onboard," the Huffington Post reports.

"Said chaperone will be held liable if any does occur."

Clearly, the public's key concerns are with underage drinking and the safety of the passengers in general. Party bus operators should accept the need for tighter regulation and work with lawmakers on drafting strong rules.

-- Tom Dennis for the Herald

Related Topics: CRIME
Opinion by Thomas Dennis
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