Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/03/2003 01:32 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 213-PROVISIONAL DRIVER'S LICENSE CO-CHAIR MASEK announced that the first 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 0072 CO-CHAIR MASEK told the members she has serious reservations about this is kind of legislation. She said current Alaska law allows teens to obtain a learner's [permit] at the age of 14. That gives a teen up to two years to learn how to drive before turning 16 years old, when he/she can obtain a license with parental consent. She said many teens do not obtain a license [permit] until they reach the age of 16 and are required to have a learner's [permit] for at least six months. She said that those existing provisions of law take care of the graduated criteria that this bill's sponsor is trying to establish. Co- Chair Masek said that this bill simply does not make any sense to her. She said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study and statistics that the sponsor featured to justify the implementation of this bill cite three reasons for a large number of accidents for this age group. Those factors that work together to cause a high number of accidents among teens are inexperience, risk-taking behavior, and immaturity. CO-CHAIR MASEK told the members that she believes there are only four [changes] worthy of considerations in amending current law related to teen drivers. She offered the following suggestions: [change] the age at which a student can get a learner's [permit] to 16 years old, change it so the permit is for one year rather than for six months, require driver's education classes for youths under 18 years old, and prohibit teen driving between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. She also recommended revoking a driver's license for speeding or reckless endangerment. Co- Chair Masek said if there is a comparison between Alaska and the other states, it is not relevant in the rural areas where a lot of youths have to travel quite far to a job and do not have public transportation. It would be a huge burden on the parents to assume the role of getting kids to work, she said. Number 0358 REPRESENTATIVE KOOKESH noted that one of the core components of the graduated license in most states is that youths [who have a provisional license] may not carry a person under the age of 21 years old [unless it is a parent or legal guardian]. He asked why the age requirement of 25 years old is used in this legislation. Number 0380 LINDA SYLVESTER, Staff to Representative Bruce Weyhrauch, Alaska State Legislature, presented a proposed committee substitute for HB 213 [unspecified version] on behalf of Representative Weyhrauch, the bill's sponsor. She told the committee the rationale for increasing the age from 21 to 25 years of age is that a person who is 21 years old is closer in age to a 16- or 17-year-old. It was decided that 25 years of age is really another age group. REPRESENTATIVE KOOKESH stated that the sponsor is relying on data that is being presented from other states, and has adopted language that is almost verbatim from other state's [graduated driver's license] law, with the exception of changing the 21- year-old to 25-year-old passenger language. He told the committee he does not understand the rationale and is uncomfortable with this change. MS. SYLVESTER replied that the idea behind selecting the age of 25 is to assure that a passenger in a car with a novice driver is someone akin to a parent. The idea is to have someone removed from the peer group who is a young adult. Ms. Sylvester said that this language would assure the greatest safety, but the sponsor is willing to consider a change in the age. She added that the [25-year-old] age requirement is part of Washington State's law. Number 0538 REPRESENTATIVE FATE shared that he has raised four children who have all gone through the era of "inability to make a judgment." He said he fears this legislation will criminalize every 16- year-old who has a provisional license, because there probably is not a single 16-year-old who at some time or another have an [underage] passenger in the car in the first six months. Representative Fate said he believes that some of this language is too draconian. He told the committee if the state were to offer really good driver's education, he said he believes a 16- year-old could be responsible behind the wheel of a vehicle. Representative Fate summarized his comments by saying he has real concern about this bill. Number 0653 CO-CHAIR MASEK announced that HB 213 will be held in committee, and a subcommittee may be appointed to work on the bill prior to the next hearing.