Safety monitor required on party buses carrying kids under drinking age

Safety monitors will now be required on all party buses or limousines carrying children under the drinking age of 19, a measure one mother said could have saved her daughter’s life.

Julie Raymond of Maple Ridge has been calling for safety monitors to ensure teens don’t sneak drugs or alcohol onto party buses since 2008, when her 16-year-old daughter Shannon died after taking ecstasy on a party bus.

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“If a safety monitor would have been on board that night my daughter took the party bus … she would still be alive,” said Raymond, speaking at Victoria’s Ogden Point just after Transportation Minister Claire Trevena announced the safety measures.

The changes come too late for Shannon and two other young people who died on party buses in the Lower Mainland, Chelsea Lynn Mist James and Ernest Azoadam. But Raymond hopes “it will stop that nightmare from unfolding on the doorstep of some other parent and some other family.”

The vehicle operator will be responsible for ensuring the safety monitor has first-aid and Naloxone training and has passed criminal record checks.

“Up until now, the party bus industry has been largely unregulated,” Trevena said. She said safety monitors will be better equipped to make sure teens aren’t drinking or using drugs on party buses.

Don Stewart, who works for Alpine Limousine Services, said young people should be prepared to shell out more for a party bus as a result of the requirement for an extra staff member.

Stewart was skeptical of the new rules, saying the adult who books the party bus, not employees, should be responsible for what goes on. Party buses are equipped with cameras and monitoring mirrors and if someone is misbehaving, drivers typically shut off the music and lights and pull over to gain control. However, the driver or safety monitor isn’t going to leave a young person on the side of the road if they’re rowdy or intoxicated, Stewart said.

Police can also pull over a party bus and ticket anyone consuming drugs or alcohol in a vehicle.

An Alpine party bus was one of several vehicles inside a large warehouse at Ogden Point being inspected by Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement, which made sure the emergency door release was working, checked for trip hazards and other safety violations.

Cole Delisle, director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement branch, said its officers are in the middle of a safety blitz during which all party buses in Greater Victoria have been asked to come in for an inspection ahead of the busy school graduation and prom season.

The requirement for safety monitors, effective April 1, follows tougher industry rules introduced in December that required party-bus operators to obtain consent forms from parents and guardians of underage riders. The government also raised fines to $318 from $81 for party buses and commercial vehicles that do not display valid decals that prove the vehicles have passed annual safety inspections.

“I believe the province now realizes that this industry was operating on the fringes of the law and this needs to stop,” Raymond said.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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