Legislature(2003 - 2004)
02/11/2004 03:20 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 213-PROVISIONAL DRIVER'S LICENSE CHAIR ANDERSON announced that the next order of business would be 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." Number 1325 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS), Version 23-LSO786\X, Luckhaupt, 1/29/04, as a work draft. There being no objection, Version X was before the committee. [Note: Version X was the same version adopted and reported from the House Transportation Standing Committee as CSHB 213(TRA).] Number 1339 LINDA SYLVESTER, Staff to Representative Bruce Weyhrauch, introduced HB 213 on behalf of Representative Weyhrauch, sponsor, and talked about CSHB 213(TRA) [and the corresponding Version X]: This bill deals with the process by which young drivers get their Alaska driver's license. Currently, the system is two-tiered. There's a permit that is required. You are eligible to get a permit when you are 14 years old. Alaska law requires that you hold the permit for six months before testing for your driver's license at age 16. ... If you are under 18, regardless of when you got your permit, you have to hold your permit for six months before you can test for your license. ... We're adding another tier. We look at it as protections. They are very simple protections, and what they do is basically ... restrict a young person from driving around in their car in the middle of the night with their friends. ... This period of time is only for six months. ... The idea is that a young driver who is learning to drive is highly susceptible to distractions, which are very dangerous ... and fatal. In the state of Alaska, if you are a young person and you're going to die, you're going to die from one or two things. It toggles from year to year. You're either going to die from a car accident or you're going to die from suicide. We can't do much about suicide, but this bill will likely save lives. Number 1410 MS. SYLVESTER reported that other states that have adopted graduated driver's licensing systems [GDLs] with full-on protections have seen dramatic reductions in accident rates and deaths. The standard is 20 percent, she said. She continued: So we're looking at protecting the kids who are driving, and we're also looking to protect other Alaskans who are driving around on the roads who are being hit and injured and suffering property loss, loss of life, loss of time from work. ... It's a good idea. MS. SYLVESTER noted that the bill spent a lot of time in the House Transportation Standing Committee. She said: We started off with the mother of all GDL bills. We had it at a year, and we thought that was very draconian. We've dropped it down to six months. We've put exemptions; we want to make sure this is tailored to Alaska. ... If you're in your GDL period, your provisional-license period, you can drive around with your siblings. So this way, if you live out in the rural area, if you're out in the [Matanuska- Susitna area] and your parents rely on the ... young driver to take the kids to school, that's allowed. We've also got an exemption ... for working. If a kid is working, needs to be driving in the middle of the night ... to work in a fish camp, you can get a work permit ... to work in the scope of your business, or driving to and from work. ... If you're in your provisional period and you're a careless driver and you're speeding and you've got a ticket and you've been convicted of your ticket, then that's going to put you back, and you're not going to advance. So that's a neat idea for the police. It's the carrot that will keep the drivers safe ... on the road. Number 1500 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked if the bill limits the number of siblings a young driver could have in the car. MS. SYLVESTER read from the bill, page 2, lines 20-22 [Section 3, paragraph (1)], which says for the first six months after receiving a provisional driver's license [the person may not] operate a motor vehicle that is carrying any passengers except a parent, legal guardian, sibling, or person at least 21 years of age. In further reply, she said statistics show that buddies provide fatal distractions for these kids. "So they get six months of handling all of the nuances of driving, and then they've got some... experience under their belt ... and can deal with what the buddies are doing," she added. Number 1606 REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD asked what "proof satisfactory" meant in the context of HB 213. MS. SYLVESTER replied: What you're referring to is a certification before you get your provisional license; ... a parent, guardian, or employer is certifying that while the kid had a permit, they've got lots of time driving. And we're saying 40 hours. So when you ... bring your kid to [the Division of Motor Vehicles] you're signing the statement that you're accepting legal liability for your child driving. And on that statement you're just saying that ... they've got [the 40 hours of driving experience]. We wanted to leave it open-ended for the Division of Motor Vehicles. It's a form; there's no ... enforcement of it. It ... is a very open-ended item that serves to heighten people's awareness of what ... standard ... is necessary. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD restated, "So, what you're actually asking for is that I've driven that much time with my kids." MS. SYLVESTER responded, "Don't forget the nighttime ... driving and driving in inclement weather. A lot of people don't think those things through, so it's an educational tool." She added that it's simple and innocuous, but highly effective, statistically speaking. Number 1690 KEVIN E. QUINLAN, Chief, Safety Advocacy Division, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Washington, D.C., spoke in support of HB 213, noting that members had two documents: written testimony he'd highlight and a list of safety recommendations entitled "NTSB: Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements 2004." He said NTSB is an independent federal accident-investigation agency. Although it investigates airplane accidents and so forth, it also does highway investigations. Emphasizing that NTSB isn't a regulating agency, he explained: We don't tell you or the states what to do. ... Rather, we ask you to do the right thing, based on our investigations, and it's really up to you to adapt the recommendations to fit your state. That said, the safety board is known for its scientific rigor and objectivity. MR. QUINLAN said 90 percent of transportation fatalities every year happen on the highway, and 40 percent of teen deaths occur in traffic crashes - it's the leading cause of death for teenagers. In Alaska, teens constitute 7 percent of the driving population, but are 17 percent of the drivers in fatal crashes; 26 percent of the fatalities in Alaska involve teen drivers. In terms of teen passengers, two-thirds of teen vehicle-related deaths occur in vehicles driven by other teens. He continued: One of the things that's not in the testimony is that the nation as a whole - and probably Alaska, but I haven't checked your statistics on this - is experiencing an increase in the number of young drivers. It's called the "baby boomlet," and that increase is 25 percent. That means ... you have more in that age group, so you have more drivers, more crashes, more fatalities. That's the way it would normally work. Teen drivers also do about 20 percent of their driving at night, but 50 percent of the fatalities are at night. So there's another issue. What we've seen is that the system's broken. The system doesn't teach our young people to drive. It teaches them how to pass a test, and the fix for that is to give them more experience in a supervised, safe setting. GDL is the answer; it's not new, and it works in the other states. Number 1850 MR. QUINLAN continued: You've heard some discussion of what a three-phase system is. Now, Alaska has the learner's permit with the six-month mandatory holding period. Supervised training is very important. Most states select 50 hours. And crash- and violation-free driving is very important. So you can identify the high-risk drivers early and remediate. The new phase is an intermediate phase. Six months is the minimum because most of the effect is achieved in the first six months, but it does continue up to a year. We recommend a year, but six months is fine. In that phase, there are three restrictions that the safety board recommends. One is a nighttime driving restriction, and the reason is that the cues are different at night. Unfortunately, the people that have the best reflexes, that is, teenagers, have the worst driving record and the worst crash record. I know Alaska conditions are different: you could have nighttime driving at 4 ... p.m. That's fine. The real message is, we need to give them lots of nighttime driving experience and lots of driving experience that's supervised. We also recommended a passenger restriction of zero or one, to last at least six months, again, preferably a year. The reason we picked one [passenger] is for security: ... in some areas you need to consider security issues unless they're supervised. And then they can have as many people as they want. You need an adult supervising driver. The last one is a cell-phone restriction. This is just for the provisional phase. Now, some states have banned handheld cell phones. We've investigated crashes involving teen drivers where, clearly, the distraction was the cell phone. ... I have to tell you, I was unconvinced when I looked at the first investigations on this, but then I came to realize, with the data that we had, that the distraction for a teenager in the learning phase and the intermediate phase is very analogous to that of having multiple teen passengers, again, crash- and violation-free driving. Number 1941 MR. QUINLAN continued: We have 39 states with a three-phase system; 36 states, including Alaska, have some elements, and I mentioned that one of a graduated licensing system; 37 have nighttime restrictions; and the newer one that almost didn't exist three years ago, 26 states now have passenger restrictions. ... You have in the testimony a summary sheet of effectiveness in other states. And I'd like to point out a couple to you really quickly: Michigan, 25 percent overall reduction in crash rates; that's normalized data, so that's good, hard data, and it's done by a highly-esteemed, scientific institution. The same thing in North Carolina, but look at the 57 percent reduction in fatal crashes. There is one thing that's not in there, on California. There's a recent report from California on the reduction in teen alcohol-related fatal crashes from GDL, a totally unexpected consequence of ... enacting GDL. It's done by the [Automobile] Club of Southern California. MR. QUINLAN also pointed out that in Pennsylvania there was a 58 percent reduction in fatalities. Turning to the "most wanted" list, he noted that GDLs are right up there with measures to keep aircraft from exploding in mid-air and running into each other on the ground. "We take this very seriously," he remarked. "It will actually save more lives." Number 2042 MR. QUINLAN continued: Let me just wrap up by saying ... I like to read state constitutions, and most states in the United States have the word "safety" in Article I. Alaska doesn't, but it does say that you have the right to life, and in Article VII it talks about public health and public welfare. ... That's what we are really talking about here. We strongly support HB 213. We know this measure works; it's one of the most effective actions that you can take to prevent teen deaths and the deaths of others in teen crashes. And the best part is, it's not just this year, it's every year. ... It passes all of the tests, and the one that's most important to me is that it passes the commonsense test because teen drivers just need experience driving. We cannot do what Germany does and require 270 hours of driver education. That's not going to happen. But we can give them lots of driving experience. And I think, finally, it's just the right thing to do. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked if "teens" refers to anyone younger than 20 years of age. MR. QUINLAN said that's how the data is "cut." The states make the age what they want: 14 in some, 15 or 16 in others, for example, or  in New York. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO remarked, "If we're talking about statistics that affect everybody from 'a minute under 20' all the way down, there has to be some portion of this that has no effect. ... It only applies to six months of 'teenagehood,' while the rest of it is wild." MR. QUINLAN replied: Let's hypothetically say it's 16. You have to hold the learner's permit for six months. You have to hold the other permit for at least six - we recommend a year. It's actually best to carry it through to 18, as New York does, because then you get them over the hump of the inexperience, the - I hesitate to say it - ... testosterone. Number 2188 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO told of his experience with his two daughters and the two wrecked cars they produced in their first six months of driving. MR. QUINLAN referred to a television news program that showed teen drivers in a car with camera surveillance in the car. The three girls "still blew a stop sign" because there were teen passengers in the car. He explained that the first six months of driving is a critical time, an intermediate phase when it's important to restrict teen passengers. Number 2230 REPRESENTATIVE LYNN noted that Alaskan weather can be severe, and said cell phones are a safety feature for drivers. He also commented that if a car breaks down and the temperature is 20 degrees below zero, or if a drunk driver is observed, a person needs to be able to call authorities. MR. QUINLAN replied: Every state that has that [cell-phone restriction] has an emergency exemption, 911 or whatever. And it only makes sense. If you're in an emergency, are you going to be holding both hands on the wheel and checking ... the whiteout as it comes to you? Or are you going to be on the phone, or are you going to stop and call? You're probably going to stop and call, and that's the safest. ... Of course you'd want to have a cell phone in the car, and of course you would want the ... teen driver to be able to call somebody to help them. Number 2340 CINDY CASHEN, Executive Director, MADD [Mothers Against Drunk Driving], Juneau Chapter, testified in support of HB 213 on behalf of four of the MADD Alaska chapters: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Mat-Su. She said this is the MADD Alaska chapters' number-one priority. TAPE 04-11, SIDE B Number 2350 MS. CASHEN said: We feel that early driving experiences must be required in a lower-risk environment through extended restriction of no alcohol use, primary belt enforcement, limitations on nighttime driving and teenage passengers. Appropriate restrictions should be lifted in stages, based on clean driving records. According to the Alaska Highway Safety Office, in the year 2000 in Alaska there were over 3,800 crashes involving 16- to 20-year-old Alaskan teenagers. The next year, 2001, it went up ... by over 400. In the year 2000, every two and one-half hours there was a teenager in Alaska being involved in a crash. In 1995 to the year 2000, that five-year period, there were 64 Mat-Su teen drivers in motor vehicle crashes on the highway who were injured seriously enough to be hospitalized. Number 2299 MS. CASHEN continued: I looked up three places, through the Alaska Highway Safety Office, three Alaskan towns, villages, cities, to ... give you a representation how it's not just in urban areas. It's all over Alaska. In Kodiak 34 percent of their crashes involve teen drivers; in Anchorage it's 28 percent; in Barrow it's 26 percent. The evening crashes, that would be between midnight and 5 a.m.: in Kodiak, it's 22 percent of evening crashes involve teenage drivers; in Anchorage and in Barrow, they're both 25 percent - pretty substantial numbers, and these numbers can be brought down if we have the GDL program. The studies prove it. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD commented that he had personal experience with his children and hoped this bill would help them "make it through these harrowing years." Number 2257 MARTHA MOORE, Coordinator, Alaska Trauma Registry, Department of Health and Social Services, testified that the department supports HB 213. She explained: My job is to ... maintain and work with an injury surveillance system. And I ... look at injury statistics in Alaska, as well as do research on them. It's common knowledge that teens are at greatest risk for traffic crashes and have the highest motor vehicle fatality rates. Several years ago, the Associated Press published an article with a report from a 20-year study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And the report said ... two important and impressive facts. One is that even though the death rates ... for crashes were declining, [for] those 16 years old, their death rates had doubled in the 20 years ... from 1975 to 1996. And the second thing it said was that the death rate of the 17- to 19-year-olds was twice that of older drivers, but the death rate for 16-year- olds was half again as much. So, it was actually three times that of the older drivers. The reasons the 16-year-olds are at such high risk are, first and foremost, youth, just sheer immaturity; ... secondly, inexperience; third, risk-taking behavior, which is common among young people and is certainly exacerbated by peer pressure; and then lastly, distractions while driving, which would certainly increase when other teens are in the car. Number 2175 MS. MOORE continued: The good news is that since 1996, 39 states have adopted graduated licensing programs. This has drastically lowered the death rates and the crash rates for 16-year-olds. The legislation before you does three important things. And it helps youth to gain the experience [they need], driving under the supervision of an adult. It puts off full licensure for six months, which from the statistics evidently is ... a critical time - that sixteenth year, even six months into the sixteenth year - for them to attain the maturity they need to be a better driver. It removes ... the highest risk factors for ... six months of unsupervised driving by restricting the nighttime driving and having teen passengers in the car. I have done research on teen driving in Alaska, and I've published a paper ["Comparison of Young and Adult Driver Crashes in Alaska Using Linked Traffic Crash and Hospital Data"] in the Alaska Medicine Journal. I'd be happy to leave that with you. Essentially, in summary, ... what happens with Alaskan teens is not unlike the rest of the country. ... The economic burden on the state is lopsided for teens as well. Number 2086 DUANE BANNOCK, Director, Division of Motor Vehicles, Department of Administration, said the division is supportive of the bill. CHAIR ANDERSON, upon determining no one else wished to testify, closed public testimony. Number 2061 REPRESENTATIVE LYNN moved to report CSHB 213, Version 23- LS0786\X, Luckhaupt, 1/29/04, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 213(L&C) was reported from the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.