Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/26/2004 01:53 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 213                                                                                                            
     An Act  relating to a  provisional driver's  license and                                                                   
     to issuance of a driver's  license; and providing for an                                                                   
     effective date.                                                                                                            
Vice  Chair Meyer  MOVED  to adopt  work  draft version  #23-                                                                   
LS0786\Z,  Luckhaupt,   2/26/04,  as   the  version   of  the                                                                   
legislation   before   the  Committee.      There  being   NO                                                                   
OBJEFCTION, it was adopted.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  BRUCE WEYHRAUCH explained  that HB  213 would                                                                   
implement a  Graduated Driver's  License (GDL) by  creating a                                                                   
three-tiered  system,  whereby  young  drivers  pursue  their                                                                   
full, unrestricted  driver's license.  He stated  that at the                                                                   
age of  16, the  youth could  be eligible  for a  Provisional                                                                   
License when:                                                                                                                   
     ·  The  youth  has  held  a  learner's  permit  for  six                                                                   
     ·  Their parent certifies  that the  youth has  at least                                                                   
        40 hours of  driving experience,  including 10  hours                                                                   
        of   driving    under    progressively    challenging                                                                   
        conditions such  as  nighttime or  inclement  weather                                                                   
        conditions; and                                                                                                         
     ·  The youth  has  not been  convicted  for violating  a                                                                   
        traffic law for at least 6 months before applying.                                                                      
He  continued  that  once  the   youth  holds  a  Provisional                                                                   
License,  they  would  be subject  to  several  "limitations"                                                                   
during their first six months of driving:                                                                                       
     ·  Driving  between   1  a.m.  and   5  a.m.   would  be                                                                   
     ·  No passenger except  a parent,  a person 21  years of                                                                   
        age or older, or two siblings in the car with the                                                                       
        novice driver.                                                                                                          
Representative Weyhrauch noted  that  six  months  after  the                                                                   
issuance of the  Provisional License, the young  driver could                                                                   
apply  to  the  Division of  Motor  Vehicles,  Department  of                                                                   
Administration, for  an unrestricted license as  long as they                                                                   
had not been convicted of a traffic  offense for at least six                                                                   
months preceding their application.                                                                                             
Two important exceptions to the  Provisional License law are:                                                                   
     · A driver with a Provisional License may be eligible                                                                      
        for a work permit so that they could drive to and                                                                       
        from work and/or driving during the scope of their                                                                      
     · Driver's issued permits or licenses under the                                                                            
        Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) hardship clause on                                                                     
        off-systems licensing programs would in no way be                                                                       
        affected by the GDL licensing provisions.                                                                               
RICHARD CATTANACH, (TESTIFIED  VIA TELECONFERENCE), EXECUTIVE                                                                   
DIRECTOR, ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS  OF ALASKA, AMERICAN                                                                   
AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION  (AAA), ANCHORAGE, voiced  support for                                                                   
HB  213.   He  commented  that driving  is  a skill  that  is                                                                   
learned by  doing and that  by nature, driving  is inherently                                                                   
risky.   He recommended that  extending the learning  process                                                                   
reduces the exposure to risk while  teens are gaining skills.                                                                   
Experience  reduces the number  of teenage  crashes.   HB 213                                                                   
addresses that.                                                                                                                 
Mr. Cattanach pointed  out that two out of  five deaths among                                                                   
teens  are the  result  of traffic  accidents.   Crashes  for                                                                   
teenage drivers are three times  that of older drivers.  Teen                                                                   
drivers have a  fatality rate that is four  times higher than                                                                   
the fatality rate of 25-65 years old.                                                                                           
Mr. Cattanach addressed components in the bill regarding:                                                                       
     · Varying length of the learning permits;                                                                                  
     · Passenger restrictions; and                                                                                              
     · Night restrictions.                                                                                                      
Mr.  Cattanach  stressed  that  HB 213  encompasses  all  the                                                                   
components of  a "successful" GDL.  The  legislation provides                                                                   
"time to learn"  by providing a six month  instruction period                                                                   
of behind  the wheel  experience with  40-hours of  certified                                                                   
driving experience,  provides responsibility with  six months                                                                   
citation  free  driving  and  approves  the  two  major  risk                                                                   
factors  of   novice  drivers,  passengers  and   late  night                                                                   
Mr. Cattanach  noted that with a  GDL in place, the  State of                                                                   
Alaska could prevent nearly 970  injuries, over 3,000 crashes                                                                   
and save $21  million dollars.  He ascertained  that the time                                                                   
has come to change  the ways we teach our teens  to drive.  A                                                                   
recent AAA poll shows that Americans  support additional laws                                                                   
with regard to  teenage drivers.  He stressed that  it is not                                                                   
an issue  of restriction and/or  burden, but rather  an issue                                                                   
of traffic safety.                                                                                                              
Representative Weyhrauch  noted that at  age 14, a  youth can                                                                   
get  a drivers  permit in  the State  of Alaska.   Under  the                                                                   
proposed bill, at 16 years of  age, a youth could still get a                                                                   
provisional drivers  license if an adult certifies  that they                                                                   
had 40-hours of  driving experience or 10 hours  in nighttime                                                                   
and  more  challenging driving.    There  is nothing  in  the                                                                   
legislation, which  prohibits getting a provisional  driver's                                                                   
license at age  16.  The committee substitute  will allow the                                                                   
driving of a sibling and allows  for other teenagers to be in                                                                   
the car if  there is an adult  present.  He pointed  out that                                                                   
the legislation  does not affect  rural off road  situations.                                                                   
The bill attempts  to accommodate concerns  voiced throughout                                                                   
the State.   The  Alaska Mental  Health Board  and the  state                                                                   
Parent-Teachers Association (PTA)  has indicated that this is                                                                   
their top priority.                                                                                                             
Representative Stoltze referenced  Page 1, Line 11, "person's                                                                   
parent" and  asked if  there had  been discussion to  further                                                                   
expand that language.                                                                                                           
LINDA  SYLVESTER,  STAFF,  REPRESENTATIVE   BRUCE  WEYHRAUCH,                                                                   
responded that in regard to the  certification, that would be                                                                   
the statement  acknowledging that  the youth had  experienced                                                                   
driving  under  the  supervision  of a  parent,  guardian  or                                                                   
employer.  There  is a statement on the application  that the                                                                   
parent must  sign as  they are  assuming legal liability  for                                                                   
their  child's  driving.    She  added  that  they  want  the                                                                   
certification to be "flexible  and permissive" and that there                                                                   
is no enforcement  associated with it.   It is a  small item,                                                                   
serving as an educational tool.                                                                                                 
Representative   Weyhrauch   responded    to   Representative                                                                   
Stoltze's  query  regarding  custodial  versus  non-custodial                                                                   
parent.  He clarified that the  law does not distinguish that                                                                   
indication.    An adult  person  can  certify that  the  teen                                                                   
driver  has met the  requirement  and is not  intended  to be                                                                   
restrictive to a non-custodial parent.                                                                                          
Representative  Stoltze  pointed  out  that he  has  a  rural                                                                   
district  in which bus  routes have  been cut  off.   In that                                                                   
area, there  are "real considerations"  regarding how  to get                                                                   
to and from  school and work.   He questioned the  value that                                                                   
the legislation would have for those people.                                                                                    
Representative Weyhrauch  advised that the  restricted period                                                                   
of  time would  only be  six months  and  would restrict  the                                                                   
student's ability to drive with  other teens without an adult                                                                   
in the car.   Data from other states indicates  that the time                                                                   
when  there  are  two  or  more   teenagers  in  a  car,  the                                                                   
possibility   of  accident  increases   significantly.     To                                                                   
restrict the number of teens in  a car is worth the number of                                                                   
lives that are going to be saved.                                                                                               
Representative  Stoltze commented that  kids in his  district                                                                   
have  a different  point  of view  than  their parents  have.                                                                   
Representative Weyhrauch reiterated  that youth drivers could                                                                   
drive  their  younger  siblings  to school,  just  not  other                                                                   
Representative  Stoltze  pointed  out that  there  are  other                                                                   
states that  have less restrictive  laws than  that proposed.                                                                   
Representative  Weyhrauch  emphasized  the  legislation  only                                                                   
will affect a six-month restriction period.                                                                                     
Representative  Stoltze  referenced   Representative  Green's                                                                   
bill proposed  two years ago regarding  driving restrictions.                                                                   
Representative   Weyhrauch   did    not   know   about   that                                                                   
Ms.  Sylvester explained  that when  discussing the  proposed                                                                   
bill with  young people,  once they  understand what  and how                                                                   
little  it really  does, they  then become  supportive.   The                                                                   
legislation  restricts  for  six  months,  youth  drivers  at                                                                   
night.   Night driving can be  dangerous behavior.   The bill                                                                   
provides  protection for  young drivers  until they  get more                                                                   
experience.  When  the young drivers are 16.5  years old then                                                                   
they  can drive  on the  roads unaccompanied.   The  benefits                                                                   
indicated  in other  states are  a lowering  of accident  and                                                                   
fatality rates by 20%.  Representative  Weyhrauch interjected                                                                   
that  driving  is a  privilege  and  everyone must  abide  by                                                                   
certain restrictions.                                                                                                           
Representative  Stoltze noted that  he appreciated  the goals                                                                   
of the  legislation and  would attempt  to "balance"  it with                                                                   
"real world applications".                                                                                                      
Vice Chair  Meyer  asked if the  bill would  have effects  on                                                                   
insurance  rates.  Representative  Weyhrauch reiterated  that                                                                   
the legislation would  restrict driving for six  months for a                                                                   
certain  class of  individuals.   He noted  that there  was a                                                                   
representative  from   the  insurance  industry   present  to                                                                   
testify.   He  added that  the  good news  is that  insurance                                                                   
costs can be saved.                                                                                                             
Vice  Chair Meyer  questioned  if  the legislation  would  be                                                                   
delaying licensing  by six months.  Representative  Weyhrauch                                                                   
explained  that   the  beginning   driver  would   receive  a                                                                   
provisional drivers  license for six months.   They can still                                                                   
drive themselves  and their  siblings during  the day  but it                                                                   
would restrict  them from  driving with  other teenagers  and                                                                   
driving  at night.    He emphasized  those  are the  critical                                                                   
Vice  Chair  Meyer asked  what  would  happen if  the  driver                                                                   
received  a conviction  during  the six  months  unrestricted                                                                   
phase.    Representative  Weyhrauch  thought  the  individual                                                                   
would  have to  wait  for six  months from  the  time of  the                                                                   
conviction  not the  time of  being cited.   He  acknowledged                                                                   
that might be a "loop hole".                                                                                                    
Vice Chair  Meyer inquired  if historically,  there  are more                                                                   
traffic  accidents  in the  first  six months  of  operation.                                                                   
Representative Weyhrauch guaranteed that there are.                                                                             
Vice Chair Meyer mentioned the  fiscal note.  He asked if the                                                                   
youth  would  have  to  go back  to  the  Division  of  Motor                                                                   
Vehicles  (DMV)  after the  six-month  period  to get  a  new                                                                   
unrestricted  license.   Representative  Weyhrauch  responded                                                                   
that was his understanding.                                                                                                     
Ms.  Sylvester provided  an overview  of  the charts  brought                                                                   
before the Committee.                                                                                                           
     · Chart #1 - Indicates accidents per 1,000 licensed                                                                        
     · Chart #2 - Teen Driving with Passengers - for teen                                                                       
        drivers, the presence of passengers results in                                                                          
        higher crash rates per 10,000 trips;                                                                                    
     · Chart #3 - When car accidents are likely to happen                                                                       
        to teens indicating that 16 & 17 year olds are                                                                          
        involved in more crashes between the hours of                                                                           
       midnight and 5 a.m. than during daytime hours.                                                                           
Ms.  Sylvester noted  that the  bill does  not have  language                                                                   
requiring  driver education  programs  in the  schools.   She                                                                   
stated that  the problem with  driver's education is  that it                                                                   
is expensive  and that  it would  be unreasonable to  require                                                                   
schools to  offer the program  during the cutbacks  happening                                                                   
to education.   Also,  research indicates  that the  Driver's                                                                   
Education  Program  does  not  have a  tremendous  amount  of                                                                   
impact  on accident  rates.    It keeps  kids  in a  "holding                                                                   
pattern" of practicing driving longer, same as the GDL.                                                                         
Representative  Foster voiced his  appreciation for  the work                                                                   
on the  legislation, pointing  out that  he had  co-sponsored                                                                   
the bill.   He noted that in  some areas of the State,  it is                                                                   
nighttime  half the  year.   Representative Weyhrauch  stated                                                                   
that there  had been discussion  in the House  Transportation                                                                   
Committee regarding the distinction  between nighttime versus                                                                   
Co-Chair    Williams   mentioned    an   11   p.m.    curfew.                                                                   
Representative  Weyhrauch  responded   that  the  legislation                                                                   
would not affect the curfew and  that the laws would continue                                                                   
to overlap.   Co-Chair Williams  thought that a  curfew would                                                                   
address the  youth singled out  in the bill.   Representative                                                                   
Weyhrauch agreed that it could  help and that the legislation                                                                   
would also lead to a potential  citation extending the period                                                                   
of time  that they  cannot drive.   Ms. Sylvester  added that                                                                   
the curfew  laws vary  throughout the  State and that  Juneau                                                                   
does not have a curfew law on the books any longer.                                                                             
Co-Chair Williams  asked about the implication  of the fiscal                                                                   
revenue change.   Representative Foster pointed  out that the                                                                   
note    is    positive,    providing    increased    revenue.                                                                   
Representative  Weyhrauch   stressed  that  was   the  "least                                                                   
important aspect" of the proposed legislation.                                                                                  
MARK JOHNSON,  CHIEF, COMMUNITY HEALTH AND  EMERGENCY MEDICAL                                                                   
SERVICES,  DEPARTMENT  OF HEALTH  & SOCIAL  SERVICES,  voiced                                                                   
support for  the legislation.   Through studies, it  has been                                                                   
determined  that Alaska  "mirrors" what  is happening  in the                                                                   
rest of  the states.   The  rates of  crashes and deaths  are                                                                   
highest at  16 years old.   Then they significantly  decline.                                                                   
Young drivers  are 2.9  times more likely  than adults  to be                                                                   
involved  in crashes  resulting  in hospitalization.    These                                                                   
drivers put not only themselves  but also others at risk.  He                                                                   
pointed  out  that  studies  demonstrate  that  the  cost  of                                                                   
medical care and payment provided  is usually through private                                                                   
care insurance.  The bottom line  is that experience in other                                                                   
states  shows  consistently  that GDL  does  reduce  crashes,                                                                   
injuries and fatalities.                                                                                                        
CINDY CASHEN,  MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING  (MADD), JUNEAU,                                                                   
testified  in support for  the legislation.   She noted  that                                                                   
MADD advocates that  each state adopt laws providing  for GDL                                                                   
privileges  to  persons  less than  21  years  of age.    She                                                                   
commented  that the  bill  would allow  young,  inexperienced                                                                   
drivers  extra time to  gain critical  experience behind  the                                                                   
wheel without the distraction  of other youth in the vehicle,                                                                   
and it  emphasizes the increased  risk of driving  during the                                                                   
late  night/early  morning  hours.   According  to  statewide                                                                   
records,  in  Alaska  in  2000,   there  were  3,889  crashes                                                                   
involving 16-20 year old drivers.   In 2001, that number rose                                                                   
by 500.   It is  getting worse.   Overall, Alaska had  26% of                                                                   
evening crashes involving teenage drivers.                                                                                      
Ms.  Cashen pointed  out  that  the National  Safety  Council                                                                   
reported  that  for every  youth  that is  in  a  car with  a                                                                   
teenage driver, the chances of  crash doubles.  She concluded                                                                   
that teens  need to  learn to  drive defensively before  they                                                                   
obtain a  final license.   HB 213 would  provide that.   High                                                                   
school students,  once they realize the benefits  of the GDL,                                                                   
they usually are in support of it.                                                                                              
In response to  comments made by Representative  Stoltze, Ms.                                                                   
Cashen explained that the reference  to 21 years of age was a                                                                   
"blanket  statement" including  no drinking  under that  age.                                                                   
GDL is a part of the policy recommended by MADD.                                                                                
KEVIN  QUINLAND,   (TESTIFIED  VIA  TELECONFERENCE),   CHIEF,                                                                   
SAFETY  ADVOCACY  DIVISION,  NATIONAL  TRANSPORTATION  SAFETY                                                                   
BOARD, WASHINGTON, D.C., referenced  his written statement in                                                                   
the  packet from  the National  Transportation Safety  Board.                                                                   
(Copy on File).    He pointed out that the  work of the Board                                                                   
is to  investigate  not regulate.   The Board  does not  tell                                                                   
states what to do but rather asks  them to do the right thing                                                                   
based on those  recommendations.  The recommendations  can be                                                                   
adapted  to the state's  needs.   Since 1993,  the Board  has                                                                   
recommended GDL to all states.                                                                                                  
Mr.  Quinland  pointed out  that  90% of  traffic  fatalities                                                                   
occur on  the highways.   He  added that  40% of teen  deaths                                                                   
occur in  car crashes  and that  is the  number one  cause of                                                                   
death for  teens.   In Alaska,  teens are  7% of the  driving                                                                   
population, 17%  of the drivers  in fatal crashes and  26% of                                                                   
all highway  fatalities in Alaska  involve teen drivers.   He                                                                   
continued, nationwide there has  been about a 25% increase in                                                                   
the  number   of  young   drivers.     Teen  passengers   are                                                                   
particularly risky  for teen novice  drivers.  The risk  of a                                                                   
crash  increases by  39% when  one teen passenger  is in  the                                                                   
car, 86% with two teen passengers,  and 282% with more than 3                                                                   
teens in the car.                                                                                                               
Mr. Quinland stated  that the current system  is "broken" and                                                                   
it only  teaches the  young driver  how to pass  a test.   It                                                                   
does not provide  experience that is needed.   The GDL really                                                                   
does  work and  it is the  answer.   He noted  that the  only                                                                   
thing  that  he  would  add  to  the  component  would  be  a                                                                   
restriction   for  the   use  of  cell   phones  during   the                                                                   
intermediate license phase.                                                                                                     
Mr. Quinland  noted that  there are 39  states that  have the                                                                   
three-phase system in place; 46  states have some elements of                                                                   
the GDL; 37  states have the nighttime  driving restrictions;                                                                   
and 26  states have  passenger restrictions.   He  referenced                                                                   
the chart  accompanying his  printed testimony regarding  the                                                                   
effectiveness  of the GDL  throughout the  nation.   He noted                                                                   
that  one statistic  not indicated  is that  the GDL  reduces                                                                   
alcohol  related fatalities.   He  added that  the GDL  is so                                                                   
important to  the National  Transportation Safety  Board that                                                                   
it  is  on  the list  of  the  most  wanted  recommendations.                                                                   
Enactment  of HB  213  would be  one  of the  most  effective                                                                   
actions that the State could take  to prevent teen deaths and                                                                   
the deaths of others.  It passes  the "common sense" test and                                                                   
it is the right thing to do.                                                                                                    
Representative  Stoltze   asked  if  there  were   other  age                                                                   
demographics that indicate disproportionately  high accidents                                                                   
or fatalities.  Mr. Quinland responded  that 16 years old are                                                                   
the  highest;  there is  a  u-shaped  curve of  highest  risk                                                                   
beginning  at  age   16  and  then  decreasing   as  the  age                                                                   
increases.  It  starts back up again at age 65.   At no point                                                                   
are  the older  drivers  at as  high a  risk  as the  younger                                                                   
TAPE HFC 04 - 31, Side B                                                                                                      
ANNA  BARNWELL,  (TESTIFIED  VIA   TELECONFERENCE),  STUDENT,                                                                   
ANCHORAGE, voiced support for  the legislation and urged that                                                                   
it be  passed. She noted  that she was  18 years old  and had                                                                   
totaled a car when she was 16.    Ms. Barnwell commented that                                                                   
she would also feel safer on the  highway with passage of the                                                                   
JEFF JESSE, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE),  LEGISLATIVE VICE                                                                   
PRESIDENT,  ALASKA STATE  PARENT-TEACHERS ASSOCIATION  (PTA),                                                                   
ANCHORAGE,  stated  that  the  PTA  organization  has  15,000                                                                   
members  statewide.   Every year,  priorities are  identified                                                                   
for each  legislative session  and this year,  GDL is  one of                                                                   
their top priorities.   Passage of the legislation  will save                                                                   
lives  and  injuries.   Passage  of  HB  213 will  assist  in                                                                   
insuring that the  teenage drivers would be able  to gain the                                                                   
experience  that  they  need  to drive  safely.    Mr.  Jesse                                                                   
reiterated  that the  more experience  kids  get, the  better                                                                   
able they will be negotiate all types of problems.                                                                              
Representative Foster MOVED to  report CS HB 213 (FIN) out of                                                                   
Committee  with  individual  recommendations   and  with  the                                                                   
accompanying fiscal  note.  There being NO  OBJECTION, it was                                                                   
so ordered.                                                                                                                     
CS HB  213 (FIN)  was reported  out of  Committee with  a "do                                                                   
pass"  recommendation   and  with  fiscal  note   #1  by  the                                                                   
Department of Revenue.                                                                                                          

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