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Law targets party buses
December 23, 2010, 01:19 AM By Bill Silverfarb, Daily Journal Staff

Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal Linda and Doug Studebaker offer support for a law to make party bus operators responsible for underage drinking in their vehicles. The Studebakers' son Brett, 19, died in a crash earlier this year after drinking heavily on a party bus.

Party buses and underage drinking do not mix, said a state lawmaker who intends to close a loophole in existing law to make operators responsible for underage drinking in their vehicles. Assembly Bill 45, the Brett Studebaker Law, will require party bus operators to check identifications and to require passengers under 21 to sign an agreement not to drink just like limousine drivers currently are required to do. If the agreement is violated, the bus operator must terminate the contract and return passengers to the point of origin, according to the bill. AB 45 is named after a 19-year-old Burlingame man who died in a car crash on Highway 101 in February after celebrating a friend’s birthday on a party bus. Studebaker’s blood-alcohol level was .26, more than three times the legal limit for adults. Studebaker died about 30 minutes after departing the party bus after 2 a.m. Feb. 6. He crashed his car into a soundwall on Highway 101 before colliding with another car. Yesterday, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Studebaker’s family held a press conference to introduce the bill. Doug and Linda Studebaker held back tears as they recalled their son, described as a young man who had a passion and concern for others. The bill was introduced at Franklin Elementary School in Burlingame, site of a planted tree memorial in Studebaker’s honor. "We miss him deeply, but we want to make a difference,” Doug Studebaker said. "We want to save lives.” His two sisters, Mackenzie and Chloe, stood by their parents as they offered support for Hill’s legislation. "It took the loss of Brett to expose the loophole,” Hill said. Belmont Police Chief Don Mattei, who also heads the San Mateo County Chiefs’ and Sheriff’s Association, offered support for the bill and said locally, law enforcement was unaware of the loophole in the law until now. Hill’s bill specifically calls for fines starting at $2,000 for a first offense to be imposed by the California Public Utilities Commission against companies that allow alcohol. Further violations could result in license suspensions or revocations. On a third offense, drivers could face misdemeanor criminal charges. "Kids and the operators know the loophole, understand it and are taking advantage of it,” Hill said. Bill Silverfarb can be reached by e-mail: silverfarb@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

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