With the holiday season underway, the B.C. government is reminding the public about stricter new party bus rules and an uptick in enforcement.
According to the Ministry of Transportation, officials have conducted more checks on party buses in 2019 than in the past three years combined.
New regulations for party buses came into effect on Sept. 19, which include an increase in the maximum fine for non-compliance from $1,500 to $50,000.
“We know the vast majority of operators are compliant and familiar with these regulations, but we wanted to send a clear message to those who think they can operate outside the law,” said Surrey-Guildford MLA Gary Begg.
“Higher fines and stricter regulations are here to stay. If you’re operating illegally you will face some hefty fines and potentially lose your licence.”
Julie Raymond, whose 16-year-old daughter died after taking ecstasy on a party bus in 2008, said she’s pleased with the government’s response.
“I was thrilled to see the introduction of the stiffer penalties,” she told Global News.
“It goes a long way to making sure that operators within the party bus industry adhere to the new the new regulations.
“It’s too late for my daughter, you know. But it will certainly go a long way to put other measures in place that no other family will will be exposed to the tragedy that we have been.”
New rules that kicked in in April also require a person on board who is a safety monitor, trained in first aid and able to administer naloxone if unaccompanied minors are in the vehicle.
Parents must also sign a consent form for all minors on board.
“We’re pleased to be involved with any program that mitigates risk for our youth,” said Delta police Insp. Ryan Hall.
“Specifically here, the use of a monitor will help them make better decisions while they’re engaged in recreational activities, and it will certainly help them if they’re in a moment of crisis in a health capacity.”
The province is also reminding the public that consumption of alcohol and cannabis are illegal inside all vehicles, including party buses, and the police will be stepping up enforcement.
The party bus industry has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years after a series of incidents.
In November, 2017, a party bus caught on fire in downtown Vancouver.
In Jan. 2016, 23-year-old Chelsea Lynn Mist James died after falling from a party bus in Vancouver, an accident an investigation determined was caused by a mechanical failure.
And in Feb. 2013, 16-year-old Ernest Azoadam collapsed and died on a party bus in Surrey.
The BC Coroners Service ruled out drugs or alcohol in his death.