The start of N.H.L. playoffs, upcoming graduation parties, prom season, and the increased use of “party buses” across the nation reminds one of the tragic accident involving Red Wings’ Vladimir Konstantinov in 1997. Almost seventeen years ago, Konstantinov’s limo driver blacked out, crossed three lanes of traffic, jumped a curb, and hit a tree at a high rate of speed. Unbuckled in the back of the limo, Konstantinov, Sergei Mnatsakanov (Red Wings therapist), and Slava Fetisov (Red Wing Player) were all severely injured when they slammed into the interior of the limo as it was abruptly stopped by the stout tree. The Red Wings were celebrating their Stanley Cup Championship and unfortunately got into a limousine driven by Richard Gnida whose license had been suspended at the time for drunk driving. Konstantinov’s promising career as an all-star defense-man abruptly ended and he is still severely debilitated with a traumatic brain injury. Sergei Mnatsakonov is permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
Across the nation young people are choosing to use party buses rather than standard limousines to transport large groups to proms, bachelor / bachelorette parties, and bar-hopping events. These party buses come equipped with wooden dance floors, neon lights, large screen televisions, leather couches, drink holders, killer sound systems and brass dance poles. Fatalities and injuries have occurred when party bus passengers have gotten out of control and either fell out of the moving bus, stuck their heads out of an emergency roof hatches, or been slammed against the interior when an accident occurs. The real debate is whether or not these party buses are increasing safety because the party bus keeps otherwise intoxicated drivers from driving themselves to these events or are these party buses discouraging use of seat belts with their enticing moving dance-party environments?
Unfortunately Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and Michigan Laws have not kept pace with this new “party bus craze.” Michigan Law does not require a back seat passenger over the age of 16 to wear a seat-belt and there are no federal regulations or Michigan laws that require bus passengers to wear seat belts. Hopefully, it will not take another tragic accident involving a beloved public figure like Vladi Konstantinov to motivate the Michigan Legislature to take a more active role in regulating the “party bus craze.”