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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

New Washington Law Aims To Make Party Buses Safer

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
In 2014, party bus owner William Prigmore said his industry helps keep drunk drivers off the road. But now a new Washington law aims to crackdown on the industry.

Prom season means many high school students will be dancing on their way to prom aboard party buses.

These parties-on-wheels have replaced the limousine as the popular prom night mode of transport. But now a new Washington law aims to crack down on this burgeoning industry -- and prevent deaths and injuries.

It won’t be in effect for this prom season. But by this time next year, all party bus operators in Washington will have to be registered with the state. And new rules will be in effect for alcohol on board these buses.

The law just signed by Governor Jay Inslee aims to prevent tragedies like those that have happened elsewhere. A 2014 report by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission identified nearly two dozen party bus-related deaths nationwide -- including the death of an 11-year-old girl in Portland in 2012.

If adults are the passengers, the new Washington law allows alcohol to be served on board party buses. But an alcohol permit will be required and the person who gets the permit must ensure conditions on board the bus are safe.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."