Assemblyman Jerry Hill stood with Linda and Doug Studebaker outside their Burlingame home Tuesday to announce Governor Jerry Brown’s signing of Hill’s Assembly Bill 45, cracking down on underage drinking on party buses.
The Studebakers lost their son, Brett, 19, in February 2010 when he crashed his car into a sound wall on Highway 101 while driving home after spending the night drinking on a party bus for a friend’s birthday.
Although Brett was underage, he had not been stopped from consuming alcohol.
“[The bus company] had no liability,” Hill said. “This bill will not allow that.”
Under the bill, which is named for Brett Studebaker, the bus company is required to ask if those under 21 will be on board. If so, a chaperone of at least 25 years old must accompany the group and be responsible for making sure those under 21 years old are not drinking and notifying the driver if they are.
If those under 21 years old are found drinking, the alcohol must be locked under the bus or the party will be terminated.
The bill, which unanimously passed in the State Senate and Assembly, also holds drivers accountable for verifying the age of passengers they suspect to be under 21. Bus companies can face fines of $2,000, license suspension or revocation and drivers a misdemeanor for noncompliance. The chaperone similarly could face a misdemeanor for supplying alcohol to minors.
Hill said those he spoke with in the party bus industry are on board.
“The legitimate associations in California…have been very supportive,” he said.
The bill will take effect Jan. 1, 2013 and was signed Sunday.
“It’s still sinking in,” said Linda Studebaker. “Had this bill been in place two-and-a-half years ago, we would not have to be standing here.”
Doug Studebaker said the bill simply requires bus companies to follow their own policies to respect underage drinking laws. He said that while teens are accountable for their actions, laws protecting youth are there for a reason, and companies should not run businesses conducive to breaking those laws.
Linda Studebaker said she felt happy yet bittersweet upon hearing the bill was signed, recalling Brett as fun.
“He reached out genuinely to people and so kindly,” Doug Studebaker said. “It’s a privilege to stand here is support of Brett and to honor him in this way.”