Some party buses present clear danger, state agency says

SEATTLE -- They are wildly popular and get more popular every year. Party buses that provide a plush environment for an on board party with lights, music and booze for a dozen people or more. Now the UTC finds clear dangers with Party Buses and a need for comprehensive action.

"Imagine this: there have been almost two dozen fatalities in the U.S. and Canada in the last four years,” Washington Utilities and Transportation Chairman Dave Danner said.

Most of those deaths were either alcohol related and or caused by improper behavior on the bus.

So far, no fatalities here in Washington State but the Utilities and Transportation Commission, the state agency that regulates so-called Party Buses wanted to be proactive.

As part of the report the UTC identified 33 party bus companies operating in Washington State.

Only 14 of them held the proper permit from the Utilities and Transportation Commission.

"So we didn't have any assurance that they were being properly inspected, that they were in a safe operating conditions, that their drivers were being tested for drugs and alcohol,” Danner said.

All regulations put in place to ensure customer safety.

Now comes word that some public schools, including West Seattle High are using Party Buses to transport students to after school events.

Trevor Leopold is West Seattle High School Athletic Director.

He says the school has been using party buses for two years and he insists they play an important role.

"The current bus system that we have between 1:30 and 4:30 they're running kids on their routes after school and doesn't have a lot of buses for the athletic teams so we get the party bus and it supplies a time friendly and economic savings for the school district,” West Seattle Athletic Director Trevor Leopold said.

As you might imagine the kids love it and parents say they understand why they are necessary.

"I think it sounds extravagant but if it's saving them money and it's still a reasonable form of transportation I am completely for it,” parent Linda Schiller said.

"Soccer has a zero budget so they are doing how they best can get the teams from game to game,” parent Nikki Philley said.

"If the company is registered properly and the vehicle has been inspected and is in safe operating condition then it's not illegal. I would still question the wisdom of it as a parent,” Danner said.

The UTC is recommending all party bus companies be brought under a single regulatory body right now some are registered with either city, county or state.
That will ensure vehicles are inspected, drivers are tested and customer safety is ensured even if legislative action has to be taken.