The perils of party buses

The recent death of 16-year-old Ernest Azoadam in British Columbia highlights potential safety issues around the use and operation of party buses, especially when underage passengers are onboard and alcohol is along for the ride.

Media reports indicate Azoadam collapsed suddenly while dancing on the bus, and he died a short time later. RCMP sources are quoted in these reports as saying there is evidence alcohol and possibly drugs were being consumed onboard.

“It’s a club on wheels without the proper oversight,” said Raynald Marchand, general manager at the Canada Safety Council, in response to questions about safety concerns on party buses.

As thousands of teenagers are getting ready to mark their high school graduations and proms this spring, now is a crucial time for parents, guardians and educators to have honest conversations with youth about being safe and responsible while partying. Partying while on the road creates even more concerns.

This prom and grad season, the Canada Safety Council cautions against the use of party buses. These vehicles not only create environments where underage and irresponsible drinking may occur, they also endanger other road users if the driver is distracted by rowdy passengers.

Hundreds of companies and owners provide party bus service in every major city and many smaller communities across Canada. Party buses differ from limousine services in that the buses are not necessarily used for transporting people from one place to another. Rather, they are often driven around without a destination, picking up and dropping off passengers over the span of several hours. Being mobile, this can make it difficult for law enforcement to put a stop to illegal behaviour, which is very likely one of the reasons party buses are so popular.

Another significant difference: party buses often come with dance floors, which passengers are encouraged to use while the bus is on the road.  Obviously, people could easily be injured if they fall while the bus is in motion. Along with that, one company boasts “Our amazing party bus holds up to 20 passengers for your large groups and even has a dance pole for your partying excitement.”

Many party bus companies talk about strictly prohibiting passengers from consuming alcohol while onboard, in compliance with provincial motor vehicle regulations. Yet, these rules are very often followed by information outlining fees charged for cleaning up spilled alcohol in the vehicles. Clearly, the owners and operators know that passengers regularly consume alcohol onboard.

The party buses industry is rife with safety concerns because of the irresponsibility of some passengers and operators, and a lack of consistent policies regarding underage riders. Some companies have clear guidelines requiring adult or parental supervision, while others lack any policies at all.

This grad and prom season, err on the side of caution and choose to celebrate responsibly. It makes for better memories if everyone gets home safely.


For more information, please contact:
Raynald Marchand
General Manager, Canada Safety Council
(613) 739-1535 (ext. 226)