Legislature(1993 - 1994)

02/08/1994 03:00 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  Number 456                                                                   
  HB 325 - MOTORCYCLE SAFETY                                                   
  REP. TOM BRICE, Prime Sponsor of HB 325, pointed out to the                  
  committee that there was a committee substitute in their                     
  packets that would transfer the responsibility of a                          
  motorcycle safety program from the Department of                             
  Transportation to the Department of Public Safety.                           
  REP. BRICE stated that the issue came up over the interim                    
  based on the Attorney General's opinion stating that the way                 
  the current statute is written we could require a helmet to                  
  anyone not singly licensed to drive a motorcycle.  In other                  
  words, you would have to be licensed to drive a motorcycle                   
  and nothing else.  This was an attempt by the Department of                  
  Transportation to find a way through existing statute to                     
  mandate motorcycle operators to wear a helmet in order to                    
  come into compliance with ISTEA (Intermodal Surface                          
  Transportation Efficiency Act) at the federal level.  This                   
  is 180 degrees from the intent of the legislature and the                    
  enforcement procedures of the Department of Public Safety.                   
  There has been no helmet law enforced on drivers over 18 for                 
  the past 17 years.  The Attorney General's opinion basically                 
  stated that only 122 people in the state are not required to                 
  wear helmets.                                                                
  REP. BRICE added that the only thing HB 325 does is clarify                  
  the current statutes to take the word "singularly" out.                      
  Stated simply, Alaska does not require helmets of drivers of                 
  motorcycles 18 and older.                                                    
  Number 540                                                                   
  JEFF BLUME testified from Ketchikan in support HB 325.  He                   
  stated that the Ketchikan Harley Riders Association supports                 
  motorcycle safety training as this training has been proven                  
  to reduce accidents and fatalities.  He stated that the                      
  biggest problem with motorcycle safety training is the high                  
  cost of liability insurance to conduct such training.                        
  MR. BLUME expressed a concern regarding the changes proposed                 
  to AS 28.35.245, which were:                                                 
  1) The deletion of reference to AS 25.20.010, the age of                     
  majority.  He said you would lose the following language                     
  regarding a person:  "thereafter has control of the person's                 
  own actions and business and has all rights and is subject                   
  to all liabilities of citizens of full age."  By eliminating                 
  this the bill has lost the definition of rights and                          
  responsibilities guaranteed in AS 25.20.010.                                 
  2) By deleting reference to AS 28.15.041, classification of                  
  drivers license, the bill has lost the following language                    
  regarding modification of regulations:  "the regulation and                  
  any subsequent modification under this section becomes                       
  effective only if approved by concurrent resolution adopted                  
  by a majority vote in each house of the legislature."   Mr.                  
  Blume stated that with these changes the bill has lost the                   
  connectivity between AS 28.35.245 and AS 28.15.041.                          
  MR. BLUME noted that a problem arose several years ago when                  
  seemingly straightforward legislation regarding insurance                    
  was enacted and it virtually eliminated the availability of                  
  insurance in Alaska for motorcyclists.                                       
  Number 607                                                                   
  SCOTT HAMANN, President of the Kenai Peninsula ABATE                         
  (Alaskan Bikers Advocating Training and Education),                          
  testified from Soldotna that wearing a helmet does not                       
  necessarily save a person.  In fact, there are statistics                    
  available to show just the opposite.  Mr. Hamann stated he                   
  is a helmet expert, tests them, and has boxes full of pieces                 
  of them.  He added that if you look at the statistics of                     
  states that allow their citizens the choice whether or not                   
  to use a helmet, you'll find they are safer.                                 
  Number 636                                                                   
  STEVE CASWELL testified from Soldotna in support of HB 325.                  
  He added that promoting safety training is a lot more                        
  productive than promoting safety items without good back-up.                 
  Number 645                                                                   
  CHUCK MITCHELL, President of Fairbanks/Tannana Valley ABATE,                 
  testified from Fairbanks in support of HB 325.  Mr. Mitchell                 
  dittoed the testimony given and added that we should                         
  educate, not legislate, to save more lives.                                  
  Number 655                                                                   
  TIM ROGERS, member of ABATE and the Christian Motorcycles                    
  Association, testified from Fairbanks that education, not                    
  legislation will save lives.                                                 
  TAPE 94-10, SIDE B                                                           
  Number 001                                                                   
  BRUCE OCKRASSA, President of ABATE of Anchorage, and a                       
  member of AMA, testified from Anchorage in support of HB
  325.  Mr. Ockrassa stated that HB 325 contains three basic                   
  points:  1) the right to choose; 2) addresses the potential                  
  risk of brain stem injuries caused by helmet use; and 3) the                 
  establishment of a motorcycle safety program.                                
  Number 043                                                                   
  GARY SAMPSON testified from Seward in support of HB 325.  He                 
  explained that several years ago he sustained a minor head                   
  injury, not from riding his motorcycle, but from slipping on                 
  his front stairs.  Mr. Sampson believes that the wearing of                  
  helmets in cars would have a much greater impact than                        
  wearing one when riding a motorcycle.  He added that the                     
  greatest asset that a motorcyclist has when riding is being                  
  able to see and hear and a helmet restricts these senses.                    
  Number 080                                                                   
  MARTHA MOORE, Emergency Medical Services Section of the                      
  Division of Public Health, Department of Health and Social                   
  Services, read a statement into the record.  Ms. Moore                       
  stated the Division opposes HB 325 as they are convinced it                  
  will be ineffectual in saving lives, preventing serious head                 
  injury and disability, and would do nothing to reduce the                    
  costs of motorcycle crashes born by the public.                              
  MS. MOORE outlined the history of the withholding of funds                   
  by the federal government from states who didn't have a law                  
  mandating motorcycle drivers and passengers wear approved                    
  helmets.  By 1975 all but three states had helmet laws.  In                  
  1976, in response to motorcycle groups, the federal                          
  government stopped the practice of withholding funds for                     
  this reason.  The result was 28 states weakened or repealed                  
  their laws.                                                                  
  MS. MOORE stated that as a result of the above, researchers                  
  have had the ability to compare the effects of having a                      
  universal helmet law and a partial helmet law compared to no                 
  law at all within the same individual state.  The research                   
  has shown that having a partial helmet law is similar to                     
  having no law at all.                                                        
  MS. MOORE said that more than 90% of all motorcycle                          
  fatalities occur to people over 18; 92% of all crashes                       
  involve people 18 and over.                                                  
  MS. MOORE asserted that a partial law, as in Alaska, is very                 
  hard to enforce because law enforcement can't tell at a                      
  glance how old a rider is, so compliance is very low.                        
  MS. MOORE said that in states that have universal helmet                     
  laws, helmet usage is 95% or better, while states with no or                 
  partial helmet laws have compliance under 50%                                
  MS. MOORE commented that states with no or partial helmet                    
  laws have more head and neck injuries, while states that                     
  instituted helmet laws have seen a significant drop.                         
  MS. MOORE stated that studies have shown that people who                     
  have gone through safety programs are more likely to crash                   
  than people who didn't.                                                      
  MS. MOORE acknowledged that opponents of mandatory helmet                    
  laws assert that they should be allowed to make their own                    
  choices as it only affects them.  Ms. Moore contended that                   
  it is not true.  In fact, the moment a motorcyclist crashes,                 
  public funds are involved and continue to be so in every                     
  part of treatment and rehabilitation.                                        
  MS. MOORE stated that nationally 60 to 70% of motorcyclists                  
  involved in motorcycle crashes do not pay for their care.                    
  Motorcyclists not wearing helmets are less likely to have                    
  Number 200                                                                   
  REP. SITTON asked Ms. Moore, if helmets are so helpful to                    
  bikers, why doesn't the state require auto drivers to wear                   
  them as well.                                                                
  MS. MOORE replied that air bags and seat belts have gone a                   
  long way towards eliminating serious head injuries.                          
  Number 222                                                                   
  REP. SITTON referred back to the figures Ms. Moore testified                 
  to regarding a $35 million increase in Medicaid cost in                      
  Texas during the year they did away with the helmet law.                     
  Rep. Sitton asked how many accidents prompted that figure.                   
  MS. MOORE replied that the study was done over a number of                   
  years and she did not have that information but would get it                 
  for the committee.                                                           
  Number 231                                                                   
  REP. SITTON asked if the Division of Public Health had done                  
  a study to determine the number of accidents caused by                       
  motorcyclists wearing helmets.                                               
  Number 236                                                                   
  MS. MOORE responded that Alaska had not done such a study,                   
  but there have been studies done that have shown that over                   
  90% of the time motorcyclists who crash, crash into                          
  something in the 80 degree range of vision or within a 160                   
  degree range.  She added that helmet standards require a 200                 
  to 220 degree vision.                                                        
  Number 245                                                                   
  REP. PORTER stated that it is necessary to look side to side                 
  in order to be safe in riding a motorcycle, and if you do                    
  that you can not see in front of you with a helmet on.                       
  Number 258                                                                   
  MS. MOORE stated that motorcycle crashes are usually the                     
  fault of the person in the vehicle.                                          
  Number 270                                                                   
  REP. PORTER responded that the concept of defensive driving                  
  comes into play in her testimony.  Its important for the                     
  motorcyclist to be aware of all the hazards around.                          
  Number 286                                                                   
  MS. MOORE suggested that a motorcyclists will turn his head                  
  the same way with or without his helmet on.                                  
  Number 303                                                                   
  REP. PORTER asked for clarification regarding Ms. Moore's                    
  testimony on motorcycle riders not wearing helmets and                       
  insurance; also, the testimony on the correlation between                    
  states with safety programs and the number of accidents they                 
  MS. MOORE reiterated her testimony that the studies have                     
  shown that motorcyclists who don't wear helmets are less                     
  likely to have insurance.  Ms. Moore added that the studies                  
  have shown that accidents increase for those who complete                    
  safety training.                                                             
  Number 316                                                                   
  STEVEN RASMUSSEN testified in Juneau that he has been riding                 
  motorcycles for over 30 years and has always had the choice                  
  of whether or not to wear a helmet.  Sometimes he does and                   
  sometimes he doesn't, and he has never cost the state any                    
  money.  Mr. Rasmussen stated he has been involved in the                     
  accumulation of tens of thousands of signatures against any                  
  infringement of the cyclist's right to wear anything they                    
  want when riding.                                                            
  MR. RASMUSSEN added that a motorcycle safety program would                   
  help young riders and women in becoming safer rides.                         
  Number 335                                                                   
  JUANITA HENSLEY, Chief, Drivers Services, Division of Motor                  
  Vehicles, Department of Public Safety, testified that her                    
  agency certifies defensive courses for automobiles and they                  
  license and certify commercial driving schools to teach                      
  driver training.  Ms. Hensley stated the Department feels                    
  they can implement a motorcycle safety program without any                   
  additional costs.                                                            
  Number 360                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN HUDSON asked what the present process was for                       
  certification of these programs similar to the one proposed                  
  in Section 2 of this bill.                                                   
  Number 365                                                                   
  MS. HENSLEY stated that currently the certification process                  
  starts with an application processed through the driver                      
  improvement office in Anchorage.  The instructor must be                     
  certified through AAA or the National Council on Driving and                 
  Safety.  After that they are required to teach a certain                     
  number of hours to be able to teach safe driving.                            
  Number 389                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN HUDSON stated that it seemed with this bill we are                  
  affirming that we do not intend to embrace the federal law.                  
  Number 430                                                                   
  REP. BRICE disagreed with Chairman Hudson's statement.  He                   
  stated that whether or not we embrace the federal law is                     
  incumbent upon the Senate acting on SB 110.  Rep. Brice                      
  added that this bill just clarifies the current language we                  
  have to bring the statutes in line with the enforcement                      
  REP. BRICE added that HB 325 would make it perfectly clear                   
  that the Attorney General's Office can't write an opinion                    
  while the legislature is out of session saying something                     
  that is 180 degrees from what the legislature intended.                      
  REP. BRICE told the committee that the Attorney General's                    
  Office issued an opinion last interim that stated that since                 
  only singularly licensed operators are not required to wear                  
  a helmet, therefore the State was in substantial compliance                  
  with the ISTEA regulations, therefore we should receive our                  
  federal funds.                                                               
  Number 436                                                                   
  MS. HENSLEY informed the committee that the AG's opinion                     
  Rep. Brice was referencing has been withdrawn.                               
  MS. HENSLEY told the committee that the ISTEA funds have                     
  already been sanctioned for the 2.7 million dollars.  Those                  
  funds, as of October 1, 1994, will automatically come over                   
  from the highway construction funds to 402 highway safety                    
  MS. HENSLEY added, if we do not have a motorcycle helmet law                 
  by this session, then by October 1, 1994, an additional 3%                   
  will be transferred over to the highway funds.                               
  Number 450                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN HUDSON asked who gets the $2.6 million and what                     
  will be done with it.                                                        
  Number 455                                                                   
  MS. HENSLEY replied that the money will be transferred into                  
  the highway safety planning agencies program and they will                   
  be available through the grant process.                                      
  Number 465                                                                   
  REP. WILLIAMS asked Ms. Hensley about the results of the                     
  California studies Ms. Moore referenced in her testimony.                    
  Number 470                                                                   
  MS. HENSLEY agreed that from her reading of studies, crashes                 
  have increased after persons take defensive driving or                       
  safety programs.  They believe this is a result of the                       
  person's confidence levels being higher and taking more                      
  Number 485                                                                   
  REP. PORTER moved the L&C committee substitute.  No                          
  objections were heard; it was so ordered.                                    
  REP. PORTER moved CSHB 325(L&C) with individual                              
  recommendations and a zero fiscal note.  No objections were                  
  heard; it was so ordered.                                                    
  CHAIRMAN HUDSON adjourned the committee at 4:30 p.m.                         

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