Inside a party bus (Wikimedia Commons)

Party bus regulations overdue says Maple Ridge mom

Julie Raymond has fought for changes for a decade

A conversation about party bus regulations still ends with tears for Julie Raymond, a decade after her daughter’s death.

The Maple Ridge mother has lobbied for changes for 10 years, and she had been told this week by government officials that big ones were coming. Friday the province announced the requirement of a chaperone on board if there are minors present, fines that have been quadrupled, and other stiffer regulations.

“This is what Danielle (her daughter) and I have been working for ever since Shannon’s death,” she said Friday afternoon. “It’s much needed.”

Shannon was just 16 when she died of a drug overdose. She had been on a party bus in July 2008, and taken a lethal combination of the club drug ecstasy and alcohol. She was found dead at a Maple Ridge home at 6 a.m. on July 26.

Since then, Julie has pressed the provincial government for more enforcement of party buses, which she maintains were effectively operating outside the law, such as allowing minors to consume alcohol.

Read More: Party bus licensing tightened up

Friday the government announced it is is quadrupling fines for party buses and commercial vehicles that do not meet inspection standards, in an effort to keep teenagers and minors safer. All party buses and commercial vehicles that do not display valid decals confirming they have passed a safety inspection will face fines that will increase from $81 to $318, making them among the highest in Western Canada.

“For a long time, the party bus industry has been ignored, leaving glaring gaps in safety,” said Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “Our government is adopting a suite of new measures so all passengers — and in particular minors — are safe when they take a ride in a party bus.”

The ministry will be engaging with the transportation industry and the Passenger Transportation Board to have new safety measures in place and enforceable in early 2019. These include:

• having a safety monitor or chaperones if a minor is on board a party bus

• requiring minors to have a signed consent form from a parent or guardian

• having new licensees of party buses submit a passenger safety plan to show they are capable of providing a safe service

• installing cameras in party buses, similar to the taxi camera program

• requiring party bus operators to install an emergency alert system in vehicles with separate passenger compartments

“Had those been in place prior to Shannon’s death, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” said Julie on Friday. “My daughter would still be alive.”

She said this week’s changes might well have saved others, if they had come earlier.

In the intervening decade between Shannon’s death and the new regulations, there have been more high-profile party bus deaths – Ernest Azoadam, 16, collapsed on a party bus in Surrey in 2013, but the BC Coroners Service ruled out drugs or alcohol in his death. Chelsea Lynn Mist died after falling out of a party bus in Vancouver in 2016.

The ministry reminded the public it is against the law to consume alcohol inside a vehicle.

“The RCMP and local police will be conducting focused enforcement during the holiday season and will continue to ticket people breaking the law.”

Julie Raymond said she hopes the new rules go far enough.

“I truly hope so. I don’t want any other family to go through what we went through. I wish we didn’t have this conversation. I wish my daughter was still here.”

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