Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/20/1996 01:15 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB  24 - LOWER ALCOHOL LIMIT TO 0.08 FOR OMVI'S                             
 Number 2174                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said the next item on the agenda was HB 24, an            
 act relating to the offense of operating a motor vehicle, aircraft,           
 or watercraft while intoxicated; relating to presumptions arising             
 from the amount of alcohol in a person's breath or blood; and                 
 providing for an effective date.  He said the committee would only            
 hear testimony on this bill today due to a request from the                   
 sponsor, Representative Therriault.                                           
 JOSHUA DONALDSON, Legislative Aide to Representative Therrriault,             
 read from the sponsor statement, "HB 24 lowers the legal definition           
 of intoxication for the crime of driving while intoxicated from .10           
 percent to .08 percent blood alcohol level.  This initiative would            
 make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft           
 with a blood alcohol level of greater than .08 percent.  Several              
 studies have demonstrated that measurable impairment to operate a             
 motor vehicle begins in most drivers at or below .05 percent blood            
 alcohol level, at that all drivers are impaired at a blood alcohol            
 level of .08 percent.                                                         
 Number 2211                                                                   
 Similar legislation has been passed in several other states and is            
 being considered by many others.  A blood alcohol threshold of .08            
 percent already exists throughout Canada, as in all of Europe.                
 With alcoholism and alcohol related fatalities already taking a               
 tremendous toll in Alaska, a reduced threshold will not only                  
 increase the odds of obtaining convictions for drunk driving, but             
 will also increase driving safety.  A study by the state of                   
 California showed that traffic fatalities were reduced by 12                  
 percent after the implementation of .08 DWI laws.                             
 Number 2234                                                                   
 In December of 1993, the Supreme Court ruled in Haynes versus the             
 Department of Public Safety that due to the margin of error                   
 inherent to the Intoximeter 3000 of .01, the actual level at which            
 an operator of a motor vehicle should be convicted of drunk driving           
 is .11.  This clearly suggests an even greater need for .08 percent           
 Number 2253                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS asked if all the fiscal notes have been                   
 collected and asked specifically if there was a fiscal note from              
 the Department of Corrections.                                                
 Number 2264                                                                   
 MR. DONALDSON said a fiscal note has not been received from the               
 Department of Corrections.  He said the sponsor could request one.            
 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said perhaps the department did not see a need            
 for one.                                                                      
 Number 2279                                                                   
 JUANITA HENSLEY, Chief, Driver Services, Division of Motor Vehicles           
 (DMV), Department of Public Safety (DPS), said that HB 24 is the              
 type of legislation that the DPS has supported for a number of                
 years.  She said it is felt that anytime you can reduce the number            
 of drunk driving fatalities and injury accidents it benefits the              
 state from a societal standpoint as well as reducing associated               
 Number 2319                                                                   
 MS. HENSLEY referred to a packet titled, "Strategies for Dealing              
 with Persistent Drinking Driver," which was a report done in                  
 February 1995, by the Transportation Research Board.  She said it             
 was an independent research report including various specialists              
 and their recommendations.  She said the .08 percent blood alcohol            
 level is supported by the Alaska Peace Officers Association,                  
 Transportation Research Board, the National Highway Traffic Safety            
 Administration, the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, et cetera.                 
 Number 2362                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS asked if she had any figures to show what              
 percentage of car accidents involve people who are between .08                
 percent and .1 percent.                                                       
 Number 2373                                                                   
 MS. HENSLEY said she did not have those figures on hand, but would            
 get them and make them available to him.  She said there are                  
 Alaskan figures for all types of accidents that occur in the state.           
 She said there is a data base, called the Fatal Accident Reporting            
 System (FARS), which has all the fatal accidents that occur in                
 states throughout the nation.  She said all the factors are                   
 measured and put into that data base.  She said all accident                  
 reports are sent to the Department of Transportation (DOT) and are            
 statistics that are kept through the Highway Analysis System (HAS)            
 Number 2404                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS referred to a time when the state did "move           
 it down once."  He said if you watched the police reports,                    
 throughout the state, DWIs did not stop.  He asked if DPS was                 
 thinking of increasing the fine.  He said, currently, people are              
 fined, they get out and the next weekend they are driving under the           
 influence again.  He said these people are not afraid of the laws.            
 He suggested that the penalty be increased.                                   
 Number 2458                                                                   
 MS. HENSLEY said that last year the legislature passed a felony               
 drunk driving law which makes the third offense, within a five year           
 period, a felony.                                                             
 TAPE 96-12, SIDE B                                                            
 Number 0000                                                                   
 MS. HENSLEY said, in 1983, the legal limit was set at .10 percent             
 or greater.  She said in 1983, the legislature proposed the                   
 Administrative License Revocation Act which has an inherent                   
 deterrent affect.  She said in 1984 there was a total of, a little            
 over, 7,700 arrest statewide whereas last year there was barely               
 5,000.  She said these changes have made an impact.  She said                 
 decreases have occurred in the size of the State Trooper force, but           
 added that the municipality and cities have increased in their                
 force in some areas, particularly in Juneau and Anchorage.  She               
 said driving under the influence is an issue that the state has               
 tried to address.  She said the DPS supports stronger measures to             
 help the public.  She said society, as a whole, must realize that             
 alcohol and a car does not mix.                                               
 Number 0060                                                                   
 MS. HENSLEY said in the United States, on an average, there is over           
 56,000 people killed per year in automobile accidents a majority of           
 which are alcohol related.                                                    
 Number 0068                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS said he agreed that alcohol and driving do             
 not mix.  He said he was not in the legislature when they voted for           
 the .10 percent but he did vote for making the third conviction a             
 felony.  He said he would be glad to vote for stiffer penalties. He           
 questioned the inconvenience to the overall public, who never has             
 had a car accident and has two or three drinks falling between the            
 .08 percent and .10 percent.  He wondered if the inconvenience is             
 offset by the savings the state will receive.  He said the people             
 who fall between .08 percent and .10 percent are the real problem.            
 He said the problem is the people who fall between 1.7 percent and            
 2.4 percent.  He said that problem should be addressed and the                
 focus should be away from social drinkers.                                    
 Number 0117                                                                   
 MS. HENSLEY said, as part of her work, she has had to deal with               
 this issue for 16 years.  She said, during that time, she has seen            
 many of the same names coming across her desk.  She said there are            
 a lot of alcohol problems and many people lose their license as a             
 result.  She said some individuals have lost their license until              
 the year 2060 because they continue to drive.  She said the average           
 blood alcohol in Alaska is .19, which is nearly twice the limit.              
 Number 0157                                                                   
 MS. HENSLEY mentioned the Supreme Court case, Haynes versus the               
 state of Alaska, which determined that the state must consider the            
 margin of error of the Intoximeter instrument.  She said that                 
 margin of error has been placed at .01 percent.  If the state has             
 an arrest that is a .10, the person is not considered intoxicated             
 until that person is .11 percent.  She said this issue must be                
 addressed and asked that HB 24 be amended to allow the inherent               
 margin of error to be taken into consideration.  She said the test            
 at the time should be valid, as long as the machine is calibrated             
 according to the standard criteria set in the law.                            
 Number 0193                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS clarified that the margin of error worked              
 both ways.  He then asked if someone with a blood alcohol level of            
 .07 percent, with a reading of .08 percent, could be in as much               
 trouble as someone with a blood alcohol level of 3.6 percent.                 
 Number 0215                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN GARY DAVIS said that would be true if the margin of error            
 was .01 percent.  He then asked how long the .10 percent has been             
 in effect and how long the .04 percent for commercial drivers has             
 been in effect.                                                               
 Number 0224                                                                   
 MS. HENSLEY said the effective date of the .10 percent in law was             
 October 18, 1983 and the effect date of the .04 percent in law was            
 April 1, 1992.                                                                
 Number 0261                                                                   
 LENNI GORSUH, Lobbyist, Miller Brewing Company, was next to                   
 testify.  She said most of the concern, her company has, was                  
 expressed by Representatives Williams and Sanders.  She said the              
 company believes that most of the fatal crashes are most often                
 caused by people well above .10 percent and that it is the problem            
 drinkers which legislation must address, rather than the social               
 drinkers.  She referred to a chart which gives an indication of               
 where the fatal crashes occur depending on the blood alcohol                  
 content.  She said the figures listed on the chart would concur               
 with the figures by Ms. Hensley.                                              
 Number 0301                                                                   
 MS. GORSUH said her company thinks the most effective deterrent to            
 drunk driving consists of stricter law enforcement, expanded                  
 consumer awareness and increased severity of the penalties levied             
 for drunk driving.  She said her company has supported this type of           
 activity.  She said people need to know that if they drive drunk,             
 they will be caught, arrested and prosecuted.                                 

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