FULLERTON, Calif. - In Fullerton, police are cracking down on violations from party bus drivers and warning others to do their research before relying on a stranger behind the wheel.
On a Friday night in downtown Fullerton, you can expect to see packed streets as it becomes a social hub for college students, locals and visitors from all over.
"In a 5-square block area, probably has 30 bars," said Fullerton Police Officer Michael Hagen.
On this night, Eyewitness News rode shotgun with Hagen, who has more than 35 years of experience working traffic enforcement for both LAPD and Fullerton PD.
He's got to keep his eyes on a lot going on at once: ride-share drivers, dangerous driving in the dense area and now, party and charter busses.
"It is truly a consumer protection, because I'd rather make these people a little inconvenienced than have them hurt or killed in a traffic collision," Hagen added.
He says he sees far too many major bus crashes that could've been prevented. Over the last few months, Hagen said he's had to tow several busses, all because of dangerous violations.
"Medium-size party bus, about 16-18 passengers, driver never had a driver's license," said Hagen, giving an example of one of his latest cases. "He was in his mid-20s."
Less than an hour into the ride-along, it happens - he spots a bus. He first noticed it's not staying on the city's truck route and pulls it over. Inside, a group of tourists going to Las Vegas.
After speaking to the driver and inspecting his paperwork, he spots several violations both from the driver and the bus company. He ultimately lets the bus continue on but plans to file a report with the District Attorney's Office and cite the misdemeanors. He said he knows these rules may seem strict, but they are meant to protect passengers.
If you're thinking of renting a bus, consumer experts and Hagen say keep this tip in mind: "If they don't give a contract, if it's all done cash money, nothing signed, that's a little bit of a red flag," shared Hagen.
He also recommends visiting the California Public Utilities Commission's website for more information.
Hagen added that most of the companies and drivers operate within the law, but it's the few that don't who put everyone's safety at risk.
"We're looking for the 5 or 10 percent that's out there that's operating on the outside," he said. "They're out there, and we're looking for them."