State Sen. Debbe Leftwich has filed legislation aimed at party bus companies that turn a blind eye to drunken teen passengers. Leftwich said she began working on the legislation after being contacted by officials with Santa Fe South High School last spring.
"A group of students had rented a party bus to go to their prom and were obviously intoxicated when they arrived. The students were stopped from attending the dance, but there seemed to be a gap in the law when it came to holding the company and driver responsible," Leftwich said. “That's what we want to address with this legislation."
Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, said Senate Bill 1762 would make it illegal for a person owning or operating a hired bus or limousine service to knowingly transport minors who were drinking or in possession of alcohol or low-point beer. Violators would face a misdemeanor offense with a fine of up to $1,000 as well as the loss of their commercial license. The company owning the vehicle could also lose the ability to operate within the state.
"It's illegal for minors to drink, and no adult should enable underage drinking--certainly not a commercial service more interested in making a buck than protecting Oklahoma teens," Leftwich said.
Santa Fe South principal Chris Brewster said the company involved made excuses for the incident, but he felt there were opportunities for adults to intervene long before the intoxicated students arrived at the prom. He said there should be a higher level of responsibly required of party bus companies when it comes to transporting minors.
"One student got off that same bus looking for a prom for another school. He was wandering around our parking lot completely drunk, not knowing where he was supposed to be and looking for a prom that wasn't even there. He didn't know where he was," Brewster said.
School officials intervened, but Brewster said had they not, eventually the students could have ended up being dropped off back at their cars and on the road drunk later that evening. "We could have lost a student that night. As an administrator and as a parent, it was frightening. I think the industry needs tighter controls."
SB 1762 will be considered when the 2010 session convenes in February.