Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120
04/13/2017 05:30 PM JUDICIARY
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HB 204-OVERTAKING/PASSING DOT VEHICLES 5:39:25 PM CHAIR CLAMAN announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 204, "An Act relating to overtaking and passing certain stationary vehicles." 5:39:47 PM REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT KAWASAKI, Alaska State Legislature, advised that under current statute, AS 28.35.185, commonly known as the "Move Over Law," drivers are required to move to the nearest lane and slow down when approaching [stationary] vehicles, such as fire, law enforcement and emergency vehicles, animal control vehicles, and tow trucks in the act of loading a vehicle. This bill includes, within those certain vehicles, the Department of Transportation (DOT) vehicles when using their flashing lights, and with workers performing road maintenance or road work. In the event a driver approaches one of these vehicles, with their lights flashing, on the highway with two or more lanes traveling in the same direction, the driver would vacate that lane and move safely into the closest lane. In the event there were fewer than two lanes traveling in the same direction, the driver would slow down to a reasonable speed. REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI reminded the committee that in 2012, Robert Hammel, a DOT employee, was tragically struck and killed while laying down traffic cones to alert drivers of a stranded vehicle on the side of the roadway at Mile 88 on the Seward Highway. He related that Mr. Hammel's name was incorporated into the committee substitute for HB 204. REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI advised that the penalty under this statute would be considered a "failure to move over," and is a class A misdemeanor if personal injury resulted in a person's failure to vacate a lane or slow down. In the event a "failure to move over" did not result in personal injury it is punishable by a $150 traffic infraction with two points assessed against the person's driver's license. He offered that this statute has been in effect since September 2005, and under this statute for the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT) there were 23 violations in 2016; 14 violations in 2015; and 53 violations in 2014. In March 2017, two South Carolina Department of Transportation safety workers were killed while working, and there is legislation across the nation dealing specifically with this issue, he advised. 5:44:24 PM REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN noted that the language deals solely with stationary vehicles, and asked whether there had been a discussion regarding vehicles moving at a slow speed performing some type of road work. REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI answered that issue was not specifically addressed in this bill. He referred to slow moving vehicles denoted with a "slow moving" vehicle sign, and said he was unsure whether that was found in this statute. 5:45:12 PM REPRESENTATIVE FANSLER moved to adopt CSHB 204, Version 30- LS0685\D, Martin, 4/8/17, as the working document. There being no objection, Version D was before the committee. 5:45:38 PM MERCEDES COLBERT, Staff, Representative Scott Kawasaki, Alaska State Legislature, responded to Representative Eastman that there had been discussions with other contractors and DOT representatives, and found there currently is not a statute in place for slow moving vehicles, and she deferred to the Department of Law and the Alaska State Troopers online. REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN surmised that currently there is no penalty in statute. REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI reiterated that he did not include language regarding slow moving vehicles within this bill. 5:47:04 PM REPRESENTATIVE KOPP said he strongly supports this bill, and agreed that this section of title 28 deals solely with stationary emergency vehicles. He described that the issue of slow moving vehicles would require an extensive re-write because if a driver comes upon a slow moving emergency vehicle, "we don't know" which way it will travel. He commented that the law should not direct a person to try to go around the emergency vehicle because it may be more appropriate to move over and stop, such as with oncoming emergency vehicles currently. It is a different situation, he said, and should be addressed separately in the law. 5:48:01 PM REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN asked whether there are situations wherein a DOT vehicle would stop to render aid to an emergency situation. REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI answered that Mr. Hammel was in that particular type of situation, and described that at the time a state trooper was rendering aid to a vehicle stopped on the side of the road, and he was called to a case 10 miles away on the Seward Highway. Mr. Hammel, in working alongside law enforcement, placed the traffic cones to ensure the stranded vehicle did not become a further hazard for other drivers when he was struck and killed, he related. 5:49:20 PM REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN opined that it was not immediately apparent that someone not performing maintenance on the road would be covered. REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI replied that the language was accurate because if the vehicle was in the act of performing maintenance or road service work, that person would be covered. CHAIR CLAMAN opened public hearing on CSHB 204. 5:50:16 PM MIKE COFFEY, Director, South Coast Region, Statewide Maintenance and Statewide Operation Director, Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOTPF), advised he has been employed with the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities for 35 years, and approximately 20 years of that time involved maintenance and operations in all three regions across the state. He highlighted that every day Alaska DOT maintenance and operations personnel serve in harm's way while working on the state's highways. Throughout the state, he said, people often ignore traffic work zones, they do not obey flaggers' order causing flaggers to take evasive actions and numerous times have had to jump in a ditch to get out of the way of errant vehicles. Maintenance and operations folks perform "mobile operations" such as filling a pot hole, and he described that the vehicle pulls alongside the road with flashing lights, the maintenance crew gets out, quickly fills the pot hole, and moves on. Also, crews will lay out cones ahead of the workers establishing a work zone, and without the work zone set up these are situations where the department's employees are most vulnerable. He pointed out that nationally, more than 35,000 people are injured in work zones every year, and approximately 700 people, including 130 maintenance and operations and construction workers, are killed in work zones every year. The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities supports CSHB 204, he stated. 5:54:25 PM REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS related that he had the opportunity to work with Mr. Coffey, and appreciates his commitment to the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and the services he performs in Alaskan communities. CHAIR CLAMAN, after ascertaining no one wished to testify, closed public testimony on CSHB 204. 5:55:17 PM REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN asked Captain Lowden whether it was his understanding that this legislation would affect a situation wherein a DOT employee was out of their vehicle rendering aid to a disabled motorist or a car accident victim. 5:55:47 PM CAPTAIN DAN LOWDEN, Division of Alaska State Troopers, Department of Public Safety (DPS), pointed out that he is not a lawyer, but surmised that because they were not doing road work, maybe not. In the event there were other emergency vehicles there, he opined, they would be covered in the sense that there would be other vehicles there that the violator would be passing. He added that in the event the employee and vehicle were there by themselves, some folks may read this bill that they were not covered. 5:56:52 PM REPRESENTATIVE KOPP reminded the committee that the mission of the DOT is to keep Alaska moving; therefore, every single thing they do is to keep motorists moving and road service work is a "very broad" term. He related that in his plain view reading of the bill, road service work is the broadest possible term that would cover all possible work on the road to keep Alaska moving, and certainly attending to motorists in need is included. CHAIR CLAMAN added that a disabled vehicle on the roadside is a hazard to traffic, and assisting in moving that vehicle off the road, under the narrowest view of road service work, would certainly be road service work. 5:58:11 PM REPRESENTATIVE FANSLER moved to report CSHB 204 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 204(JUD) passed from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.