Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/08/2004 08:00 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                                                                                                                                
     CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 213(FIN)                                                                                             
     "An Act relating to a provisional driver's license and to                                                                  
     issuance of a driver's license; and providing for an effective                                                             
     date."                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken  stated  this  bill,  sponsored  by Representative                                                             
Weyhrauch  "implements  a  graduated  driver's  license   three-tier                                                            
system that requires  the issuance of provisional  driver's licenses                                                            
to 16 to 17-year old drivers."                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BRUCE  WEYHRAUCH  testified  Mothers  Against  Drunk                                                            
Driving (MADD) and the  Youth in Action group presented this concept                                                            
to  him  a  year  ago.  He admitted   he had  had  no  idea  of  the                                                            
particulars  of   this  issue,  but  after  reading  public   policy                                                            
publications, he garnered more information.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Weyhrauch  informed that  this  legislation had  six                                                            
hearings before  the House Transportation  Committee and  additional                                                            
hearings  before the House  Finance Committee  and the Senate  State                                                            
Affairs  Committee.   He reported  that 40 states  have passed  some                                                            
form of a graduated driver's license program.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Weyhrauch  commented that  Alaska is  unique in  the                                                            
scope  and  types  of  drivers  in  both  rural   and  urban  areas.                                                            
Subsequently,  he stated  this legislation  had to accommodate  many                                                            
viewpoints and ideals.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
[Note: The  graphs utilized in this  presentation were not  provided                                                            
for inclusion into the record]                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Weyhrauch  pointed   to a  graph  showing  that  the                                                            
accident rate of every  1000 licensed drivers between the ages of 16                                                            
and 17 is significantly higher than the rest of the population.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Weyhrauch presented another graph  demonstrating the                                                            
higher  crash  rate   per  10,000  trips  for  teens   driving  with                                                            
passengers in the vehicle.  As the number of passengers increase, so                                                            
does the accident  rate, he said.  He stated that  statistically, as                                                            
drivers age, they become  more accustomed to the distractions around                                                            
them.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken asked the source of this information.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Weyhrauch   cited  the  National  Council  of  State                                                            
Legislatures.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Representative Weyhrauch  indicated that most crashes involving teen                                                            
drivers occur  in the hours after school and at night,  according to                                                            
another graph.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Weyhrauch stated this  legislation applies  portions                                                            
of statutes from  other states. He admitted that teenagers  would be                                                            
inconvenienced  for the first six  months they are driving.  He told                                                            
of parents  stressing  the need  for the  new drivers  to  transport                                                            
siblings,  which he  assured this  bill would allow.  He also  noted                                                            
this bill would also allow  for certain driving in rural areas, such                                                            
as to and from fish camps.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson asked the other exemptions provided in this bill.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Representative   Weyhrauch   replied   that  in   addition  to   the                                                            
aforementioned,  exemptions  would also be  provided for  passengers                                                            
who  are under  the age  of 21  and are  the legal  guardian of  the                                                            
driver, and  for children of the driver.  He furthered that  driving                                                            
to and from  work is allowed  until 1:00 am  provided the driver  is                                                            
traveling the "most direct [and] safe route."                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  pointed out that "midnight sun" has  a role in summer                                                            
activities  and he supported the exemption  for off road  driving in                                                            
rural areas.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DON SMITH,  Administrator, Alaska  Highway Safety Office,  testified                                                            
via  teleconference  from  Anchorage  in  support  of the  bill.  He                                                            
asserted that the driving  restrictions and additional training teen                                                            
drivers  would receive  would save  lives and  reduce accidents.  He                                                            
opined  that  most teens  would  support  the  provisional  driver's                                                            
license program once they understand the issue.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MARTHA MOORE,  Department of Health  and Social Services,  testified                                                            
in Juneau and read a statement into the record as follows.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     I  have  actually   studied  this  using  Alaskan  statistics,                                                             
     hospital  statistics  and mortality  statistics;  and in  fact,                                                            
     Alaska data on this  particular point does reflect the national                                                            
     statistics.  Specifically,  young  drivers  were  almost  three                                                            
     times  more likely than adults  to be involved in crashes  that                                                            
     resulted  in  hospitalization  of the  crash victims,  and  2.6                                                            
     times  more  likely  to be  involved  in  a crash  involving  a                                                            
     fatality. And also  as well, the crashes were more likely to be                                                            
     due to a human factor,  which means something to do with driver                                                            
     behavior.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     An  interesting  study  came  out a  couple  years ago  by  the                                                            
     Actuaries Institute  for Highway Safety. It was a 20-year study                                                            
     from 1975  to 1996. In it a couple  of really important  points                                                            
     of the study,  is that even though the overall  death rates for                                                            
     crash  rates are declining, those  for 16-year olds  doubled in                                                            
     that  same 20-year period.  The second  point that came  out of                                                            
     that study  was that the death rates of 17 to  19-year olds was                                                            
     twice  that of older  drivers, but the  death rate for  16-year                                                            
     olds was three times that of older drivers.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     The reason  these 16-year olds  are at such high risk  is first                                                            
     and foremost  youth. Immaturity  alone is the most significant                                                             
     factor  that puts these  kids at risk.  Inexperience is  also a                                                            
     factor, but  older drivers with that same inexperience  are not                                                            
     as much at risk as  the 16-year old. Also risk taking behavior,                                                            
     which  is  typical  often  of  teens  and  distractions   while                                                            
     driving, which just increases when other teens in the car.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     But the good news  in all of this is that since 1996, 38 states                                                            
     have adopted a graduated  licensing program. It has contributed                                                            
     to drastically  lowering the  death and crash rates  of 16-year                                                            
     old drivers in those states.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     This legislation  does three  important things. It helps  youth                                                            
     gain experience while  practice driving under supervision of an                                                            
     adult.  It puts  off licensures  for six months;  in that  16th                                                            
     year  of  life,  it  doesn't  sound like  much  but  it's  very                                                            
     important,  this  six  months  -  allowing  them  to  gain  the                                                            
     maturity  they need. It removes  the highest risks factors  for                                                            
     the  first six months  of unsupervised  driving by restricting                                                             
     nighttime  driving  and teen passengers  in  the same car.  For                                                            
     these reasons, the Department supports the bill.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Bunde  commented  that seatbelts  also  prevent  death  and                                                            
injury and spoke to recently  passed legislation allowing failure to                                                            
wear a seatbelt be pursued as a primary offense.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Moore contended that  this age group is least likely to "buckle-                                                            
up" and that  although many factors  increase risk, the single  most                                                            
protective factor is seatbelt use.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Senator Bunde  requested the  sponsor consider  requiring 16  and 17                                                            
year-old drivers to wear seat belts.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Representative   Weyhrauch   told  of  his   experiences  with   his                                                            
children's  adamant  attitude  in  insisting  seatbelt  use  by  all                                                            
vehicle occupants.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Dyson  remarked  that  states  implementing  a provisional                                                             
drivers' license  program have well documented reduced  fatality and                                                            
accident rates.  He asked if insurance  rates for teen drivers  have                                                            
been reduced in these states.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Weyhrauch   deferred  to  a  representative  of  the                                                            
insurance  industry.  He  cited  earlier   testimony  that  if  this                                                            
provision driver's license  program had been in place earlier, lives                                                            
would have  been saved.  He noted that  insurance premiums  increase                                                            
for  accidents and  traffic  tickets,  and therefore  surmised  this                                                            
program would assist in avoiding rate increases.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Weyhrauch agreed with Ms. Moore that  statistics for                                                            
Alaska are similar to national averages.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CINDY  CASHEN, Executive  Director,  Mothers Against  Drunk  Driving                                                            
(MADD),  Juneau  Chapter,  read her  testimony  into the  record  as                                                            
follows.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     This  is the  MADD, Alaska  Chapter's number  one priority  for                                                            
     past two  years and we're very  grateful for this Committee  to                                                            
     hear  it  today. MADD  advocates  that  each state  adopt  laws                                                            
     provided for graduated  licensing privileges to persons younger                                                            
     than 21. Early driving  experiences must be acquired in a lower                                                            
     risk  environment through  extended restriction  of no  alcohol                                                            
     use,  primary seatbelt  enforcement,  limitations on  nighttime                                                            
     driving and teenage passengers.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     According to the Alaska  Highway Safety Office in the year 2000                                                            
     there  were 3,889 crashes  involving 16  to 20-year old  Alaska                                                            
     teenagers.  That's the  highest figure,  by over 1,000,  of all                                                            
     age  groups. In the  year 2001,  that figure  rose by over  500                                                            
     involving 4,105.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     In  Alaska and  other states,  the hours  between midnight  and                                                            
     6:00 a.m. are the  most dangerous. In the year 2000, there were                                                            
     168  alcohol-related crashes  between 12:00  and 1:00  a.m. and                                                            
     177 between 1:00 a.m.  and 2:00 a.m. We don't want our kids out                                                            
     on the street at that  time. It's dangerous for them as well as                                                            
     anyone else on the street.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     I'd  like to  end -  I took  a look  at Alaska  Highway  Safety                                                            
     numbers  at  three places  in Alaska  of  various populations:                                                             
     Kodiak, Anchorage  and Barrow. We wanted to see how the driving                                                            
     numbers  stood up with the teenagers  there and if there  was a                                                            
     difference  in their population, if it mattered.  In Kodiak, 34                                                            
     percent  of  all  crashes  involved  teenage  drivers,  and  in                                                            
     Anchorage  it was 28 percent  and in Barrow it was 26  percent.                                                            
     The  Alaska rate  was 28 percent.  For  evening crashes,  which                                                            
     involved  teenage   drivers:  in  Kodiak  it  was  22  percent,                                                            
     Anchorage and Barrow  both had 25 percent and all of Alaska was                                                            
     26 percent.  These figures come from the Alaska  Highway Safety                                                            
     Office.  What this  shows is  that it doesn't  matter where  in                                                            
     Alaska  that  teenagers  need assistance  with  a three-tiered                                                             
     graduated driver's license program.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator Bunde surmised  that the witness supports that those subject                                                            
to the provisional  license program  should be subject to  a primary                                                            
seatbelt law.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Cashen responded, "definitely."                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MONIQUE  BARTEAUX,  16-year  old  student   of Juneau-Douglas   High                                                            
School, representing  MADD and Youth  In Action, read her  testimony                                                            
into the record as follows.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     Today  I'm  here  with  MADD,  as  well  as  Youth  In  Action.                                                            
     Together, they're  focused on helping prevent underage drinking                                                            
     and  problems caused  by it,  such as driving  drunk. I'm  here                                                            
     today  to  speak  in  favor  of  the  GDL [graduated   driver's                                                            
     license]  bill. I support this  bill because I believe  it will                                                            
     help drop  the amount of driving  accidents involving  teens. I                                                            
     believe  this because of states,  like North Carolina,  the car                                                            
     crashes involving  teens was dropped by 57 percent. Money-wise,                                                            
     in  California  and Maryland,  the  report  of money  saved  on                                                            
     lifesaving  and injury reduction,  was much more than  the cost                                                            
     of administering the GDL program 74 to one.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
      In conclusion, I urge you to vote yes on the GDL bill.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken  recognized Ms.  Barteaux  as appearing  in  public                                                            
service  announcements promoting  the provisional  drivers'  license                                                            
program.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Weyhrauch  noted  that  some  teens  react  to  this                                                            
proposal negatively, but  when explained how it would save lives and                                                            
involve minimal inconvenience their opposition lessens.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SHELDON  WINTERS,   Attorney  representing  State  Farm   Insurance,                                                            
addressed  the  issue  of  insurance  premiums,  informing  that  no                                                            
research has been  done to determine whether the graduated  drivers'                                                            
license program has resulted  in reduced insurance rates. He pointed                                                            
out, however that  most insurance companies offer  discount programs                                                            
for youths that meet certain  requirements, such as no accidents and                                                            
passage  of  a  driver's  education  course.  He  acknowledged  that                                                            
insurance  claims  "drive" rates,  and  since this  program  reduces                                                            
accidents, rates would be impacted.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Winters  spoke  from  his  experience  as  defense  counsel  in                                                            
numerous  accident claims,  citing  the disproportionate  number  of                                                            
accidents involving young  people licensed to drive for only a short                                                            
time.  He  pointed  out  that  injuries   occur  to  passengers  and                                                            
occupants  of other  vehicles in addition  to the  teen drivers.  He                                                            
indicated  he could  provide many  examples of  avoidable  accidents                                                            
that would have not occurred if were this law in effect.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Winters  agreed that when children  are riding in vehicles  with                                                            
their  parents, they  are  often diligent  about  seatbelt use,  but                                                            
questioned  whether this  diligence  is as strong  in situations  of                                                            
teens riding with their peers.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Senator Bunde commented  that despite high premiums, it is difficult                                                            
for insurance  companies to operate  in Alaska because of  high loss                                                            
rates.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Winters  agreed the loss  rates are high  in Alaska. He  told of                                                            
discussions relating to  medical malpractice and high loss rates. He                                                            
stressed that any efforts to reduce loss rates is beneficial.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
DEVAN HARDY,  teenager,  testified via teleconference  from  Mat-Su,                                                            
about the numerous driving  laws in existence that are ignored, such                                                            
as driving under  the influence. She predicted this  bill would only                                                            
encourage more rebellion  and result in more teens running away from                                                            
home. She also  remarked upon the  high cost to enforce a  graduated                                                            
drivers license program.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  asked whether  the witness  supports or opposes  this                                                            
bill.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Hardy opposed  the bill, as she surmised teen  drivers would not                                                            
obey the law.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator Bunde asked whether  all laws pertaining to teenagers should                                                            
be repealed to eliminate teen rebellion.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SFC 04 # 76, Side B                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Hardy answered  no and further  commented on restricted  driving                                                            
privileges for teen drivers.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Green   referenced  subsection  (1)  to  Sec.   28.15.057.                                                            
Restrictions  on driver's license  issued to a person under  18., in                                                            
Section 2 of  the committee substitute,  which reads as follows  and                                                            
stipulates  that a driver's  license  may not be  issued unless  the                                                            
person has:                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
                (1) been licensed under an instruction permit issued                                                            
     under AS 28.15.051 or under the law of another state with                                                                  
     substantially similar requirements for at least six months;                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Green  asked  if  the  laws  of  other  states  have  been                                                            
sufficiently reviewed to determine implementation.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
DUANE BANNOCK,  Director, Division of Motor Vehicles,  Department of                                                            
Administration,   testified  via   teleconference  from   an  offnet                                                            
location about  data the Division  maintains regarding requirements                                                             
of  other  states  with  graduated  drivers  licenses  programs.  He                                                            
explained  how the  Division would  review applications  from  teens                                                            
relocating  from   other  states  to  determine  whether   to  issue                                                            
provisional  drivers licenses,  based on the  driving experience  of                                                            
each teen applicant.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson asked if  nonresident teen drivers would be subject to                                                            
the graduated drivers licenses provisions.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Bannock replied that  nonresident drivers licenses are valid for                                                            
90 days in Alaska.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Senator Bunde noted the  effective date of January 1, 2005. He asked                                                            
if the graduated  provisions for a  license issued in December  2004                                                            
would go into effect in January 2005.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Weyhrauch answered  no; only  licenses issued  after                                                            
January 1, 2005  would be subject to the provisions  of the program.                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Bunde asked whether  enforcement  would be difficult  given                                                            
the two-year grandfather clause.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Weyhrauch  admitted  it  could be  challenging,  but                                                            
stressed this  occurs each time similar age requirement  changes are                                                            
enacted.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator   Bunde  asked   what  penalties   would   be  imposed   for                                                            
infractions.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Weyhrauch   responded  the  penalties  would  likely                                                            
relate to points  against a drivers license, although  he was unsure                                                            
the number of points each infraction would receive.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken characterized  this bill as significant legislation.                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken ordered the bill HELD in Committee.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Juneau-Douglas High School students participating in the Close-Up                                                               
program introduced themselves to the Committee.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects