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Safety

Party buses may be death traps

Birthday bash… high school prom…or a night on the town, the party bus is an increasingly popular way for people to let loose and have fun. But a trip on one of these joyrides can be anything but.

In fact, news reports of deaths across the country have caused great concern. In New Jersey, 16-year-old Daniel Fernandez was killed after poking his head through a rooftop hatch on a party bus as it drove under an overpass.

"Party buses" are surging in popularity across the country, but these rolling nightclubs can also be very dangerous. Quite often, anything goes on these wild rides, and deadly accidents can and do happen.

America Now went undercover to expose the hidden dangers everyone should see before boarding a party bus.

Researcher, Olivia Lavoice, was invited to go on a party bus. Once she got on board, she couldn't believe her eyes.  She videotaped her wild ride to give us a rare glimpse of what happens behind those darkened windows.

"Before the bus was even moving, before the music was even turned on, there were girls on the stripper pole, and people were screaming ‘Where's the alcohol?'," says Olivia. "You have kids screaming, jumping up and down. There's music blasting. People are spilling alcohol absolutely everywhere. It was just absolute madness."

The footage that Olivia shot with her cell phone shows underage drinking and people being lifted up and hoisted through the roof's hatch.

"No one is wearing a seat belt; most of these people aren't even sitting down," says Olivia. "They're dancing in the middle of the bus. They're so intoxicated. They have no idea what they're doing. I saw people slip because the floor was drenched in alcohol. The faster the bus drove, the more unsafe I felt."

Alex Darbahani owns KLS limousines in Los Angeles.

"If you see your driver not driving safe, and he's going too fast, you should call 911," he says.

Alex provides party buses to Hollywood celebrities. He says the real risk comes when people rent buses from fly-by-night operators.

"We have a lot of companies we call in our industry 'gypsy operators,'" says Alex. "A one-man operator. This bus has not been inspected. These guys have no license. No insurance. Most of the time, they work with the brokers."

According to Darbahani, a cut rate deal is a red flag because low rates don't cover the cost of an operator's liability insurance.

"As a party bus operator, we are required to have $5,000,000 liability insurance," says Darbahani.

Another problem Darbahani sees with unlicensed operators is their buses aren't regulated or inspected by state officials.

"You should look for decals on the side of the bus," says Darbahani. "Every state you have to have a DOT license, or in California, we have TCP, which is our Public Utilities Commission License. Always check the company. Ask them to send you the license. Proof of insurance."

And that's advice our researcher, Olivia, agrees with.

"If there was ever an accident, these people would be going through the windows," says Olivia. "Even myself, who was sober and sitting down, I realized it doesn't matter. If this bus hits anything, I could fly right into the stripper pole."

Before renting a party bus, contact the government agency that regulates them in your state. Confirm the company has a current permit, license and insurance. And check references to make sure it has a good reputation. Because riding a rogue party bus can be a real invitation to tragedy.

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