Governor Signs Bill Named For Deceased Burlingame Teen

Governor Brown Sunday signed Jerry Hill's bill cracking down on underage drinking on party buses.

Just months away from the two-year anniversary of Jerry Hill introducing Assembly Bill 45, which closes a loophole in current legislation exempting bus drivers from rules holding them responsible for underage drinking on board, Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill Sunday.

Hill is holding a news conference Tuesday in celebration at the home of Doug and Linda Studebaker, whose son Brett, 19, was killed in February 2010 after drinking on a bus for a friend’s birthday and crashing into a sound wall on Highway 101 on his drive home. The bill is named for Brett.

In December of 2010, Hill stood in front of Franklin Elementary School, where Brett’s childhood friends had created a memorial, and announced the legislation.

AB 45 imposes stricter laws on “party buses,” an issue heightened by the death of Santa Cruz resident Natasha Noland, 25, in July after she fell from a party bus while fighting with a  20-year-old girl.

“The law hasn’t kept up with the times," Hill, D-San Mateo, said at a July press conference. “[The buses] are essentially booze cruises, a party on wheels.”

Under the bill, 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 also holds drivers accountable for verifying the age of passengers they suspect to be under 21. Drivers can face fines of $2,000, license suspension or revocation or a misdemeanor for noncompliance. The chaperone similarly would face a misdemeanor for supplying alcohol to minors.

The bill will take effect Jan. 1, 2013.


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Jeni September 25, 2012 at 08:28 PM
I deeply admire Jerry Hill and my heart goes out to this grieving family at the loss of their beloved son two years ago. This bill will hopefully save a life in the future. However, this bill and the parents' lawsuit of the bus company that their son was riding on is severely misguided. Brett was not killed because of a negligent bus driver or because the bus company didn't do their job. Brett was killed in a car accident because he chose to drink alcohol and later drive home even though he was underage. Brett got on that bus with his friends and when the bus let them off at the end of the evening, Brett made the choice to get into his car after drinking. He drove & crashed. That is very sad, and again, my heart just aches to his family who are deeply hurting and mourn the loss of their dear son. But he was not an innocent victim of a car crash or the failure of the California transportation system. The bus company cannot be blamed for its customers drinking on the bus. Brett and his friends made the choice to drink on the bus even though many of them were not 21. As a result, Brett was drunk at the end of the evening and it's his own actions that killed him--the bus company is not responsible. The whole sad situation happened because a young man did not heed the warnings of drinking and driving and his friends did not look out for one another. Dare I suggest that this bill is a distraction from the real problem of teens not being held responsible for their actions?
Miriam Finder September 25, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Hi Jeni. Thanks for your comment. The point of the legislation is to close a loophole in current legislation by now holding bus companies liable for allowing underage drinking to occur on their buses. Other transportation providers, such as limo companies, already follow rules prohibiting underage drinking in their vehicles. I think the goal here is that if adults see underage drinking taking place, they have a responsibility to stop it rather than allow it.
Mike Murray September 25, 2012 at 09:11 PM
The unfortunate part of this whole thing is that a teen is dead. The unfortunate part of this legislation is that it is probably going to put more teens at risk. Teens will drink and I suspect that teen drinking is on the increase. On prom nights kids have been using these buses to drink in a safe environment and not drive in their vehicles or get in the car with somebody that had been drinking. Taking the buses out of the equation means that they will meet at someone's home and drink. What they do after that is hopefully safe... However,it may mean the get in a car and drive to the next spot. I hope this legislation does not result in more teens dying. I believe that Jerry believes that this may be an answer to a serious problem... Yet, teens will drink. Open communication with parents, parents being aware of where and when their teens will be home and an honest discussion of whether acohol will be consumed will go a long way. My brother died because he got into a car after consuming liquor and his friends didn't feel the need to take the car keys away! He crashed his car three blocks later and my parents have lived with the pain if burying their son. I do not wish this pain my parents lived with on my worst enemy. Where we go from here; I'm not sure... However the teens will find an answer and hopefully it will be a safe environment .
Jeni September 26, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Good point! I'm sure that, currently, limo drivers have rules about underage drinking in their vehicles, but how can they enforce it? If there are 10+ teens in a limo and the high schoolers close up the partition separating them from the driver, I don't know how the driver can enforce it or know. But I do hope that this legislation saves lives!


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