Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/05/1995 01:12 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 10 - PAYMENT OF COSTS OF DWI ACCIDENTS REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DAVIES, bill sponsor, introduced HB 10. It requires driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenders convicted of causing a motor vehicle accident to pay for the cost of emergency services responders to that accident. The problems and associated costs of driving while intoxicated are clear. According to national statistics, 43 percent of all fatal motor vehicle accidents involve alcohol. According to the Department of Public Safety, 40 percent of all DWI arrests involve repeat offenders. Furthermore, alcohol related accidents nationwide result in economic costs of $46.1 billion per year, according to United States Transportation Department in 1990. HB 10 attempts to address these problems in two ways. First, as a deterrent to those who drive while intoxicated, by raising the financial penalty for doing so. By raising the financial burden to those breaking the law, HB 10 emphasizes the seriousness of the crime. Secondly, this bill shifts the financial responsibility of emergency services from the law abiding, tax paying citizens to the convicted DWI offender. There are three states, California, Indiana, and Kansas that have already enacted similar reimbursement laws. Number 090 REPRESENTATIVE CYNTHIA TOOHEY asked what would happen if the person was indigent. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said what would happen is the same thing that happens now in other types of cases. If there is a court judgment against a person who is unable to pay or has relatively small resources, the court will agree to a payment schedule of $10 per month, or whatever the person can afford. REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY thought we should be able to attach the permanent fund to this. They should be held responsible. REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY asked if they had looked into the process of issuing a court order to pay a third party in a criminal proceeding, as opposed to a civil proceeding. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said they did have lawyers look it over. Some municipalities actually have a similar law now allowing courts to issue a bench warrant, and so it would add a little bit of clout behind the billing. DAVE TYLER testified via teleconference, representing the Alaska Fire Chief's Association. DWIs do create lots of types of tragedies, people are left crippled, and property is destroyed. Other issues that do not generally come to light and are not so obvious, are the risks to responders and the costs involved. It is quite hard on our responders. For example, when a woman is killed in an accident it is real hard to give an answer when a husband comes up and asks how the wife is doing. This really causes a lot of stress. We also have the physical hazards, such as fire hazards when attending to vehicle accidents. Another possibility that exists is the exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Emergency responders go through hours and hours of training to learn how to handle these situations safely. We realize this all goes with the job, but the criminals should somehow be held accountable for their actions. Number 220 REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE said he was very supportive of what the sponsor was trying to do and has little patience for DWI offenders. He asked if Representative Davies could see this law broadening out to include reckless driving. Why should someone who is drunk and cause this expense be more liable than someone who is reckless and causes the expense? REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said that was a good question. We had thought about generalizing the bill, but as you know, this bill only amends the drunk driving statute, and so it is limited to that arena. One might fairly consider those other things. We wanted to keep this particular bill focused narrowly on the DWI issue. He felt this reasoning was justified because of the very large number of accidents that are caused by drunk drivers (40 - 50 percent of fatal accidents). REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY made a motion to move CSHB 10(STA) out of committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.