Legislature(1997 - 1998)

04/15/1998 01:04 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
CSSB 304(RLS) - REGULATION OF MOTOR VEHICLES & HWYS                            
                                                                               
Number 1156                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS announced the next order of business would be                
CSSB 304 (RLS), "An Act relating to the bail or fine for an offense            
committed in a highway work zone; and providing for an effective               
date," sponsored by Senator Dave Donley.                                       
                                                                               
SENATOR DAVE DONLEY came before the committee to testify.  he                  
stated that SB 304 does one thing, which doubles the fines for                 
traffic violations in construction zones.  He noted that 26 other              
states have already done this.  He explained that there is a very              
significant danger, both nationally and in Alaska, to the people               
who work on the roadways from people who don't follow the traffic              
controls.  He said there have been fatalities in Alaska and when               
those occur, of course, they're tragic to the families, and they               
are also very expensive and costly to businesses because it raises             
workers' compensations rates, which creates lots of problems that              
way.  He concluded he believes this bill will be a good public                 
policy.                                                                        
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON commented that he observed this type of                  
situation on a recent visit to Montana and said he believes it does            
work.  He stressed that there has to be proper signs indicating                
that the fines are doubled in a construction zone.  He's assuming              
that DMV would include that.  He stated that he does not see it in             
the fiscal note, but he is assuming that it won't be too expensive.            
                                                                               
SENATOR DONLEY said they discussed at length the signage and DMV               
has extensive regulations relating to signage, which is written                
into the contracts so that the contractors can comply.                         
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE COWDERY said his understanding is that any sign                 
company working in the right-of-way is licensed and has to pass a              
test in order to work in that right-of-way.  He said for a lane                
change, you can't put one cone out and say change lanes, has to be             
done by a certain federal standards that the legislature has                   
adopted.  He asked who would be responsible for posting the signs              
regarding fines.                                                               
                                                                               
Number 1317                                                                    
                                                                               
DENNIS POSHARD, Legislative Liaison/Special Assistant, Department              
of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT/PF), came before the              
committee to testify.  He informed the committee that DOT/PF will              
be responsible for signage when it's a maintenance-type project and            
that they do not contract out for this type of work.  He said when             
the department does contract out, they try and write that into the             
specifications for the bid so that they require the contractors to             
take care of the signage the same way they would with other                    
signage.                                                                       
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked about the effective date.  He commented             
that it might be too late for the upcoming construction season.                
                                                                               
SENATOR DONLEY replied that the original bill's effective date was             
delayed until the year 2000, but DOT/PF wanted to make it a date               
that gave the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and DOT/PF enough              
time to gear up for it and also to catch the next road construction            
season.  He said he believes DOT/PF supports that effective date.              
                                                                               
MR. POSHARD replied DOT/PF does support the effective date.                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BEVERLY MASEK asked if there is information on the              
number of highway construction workers injured by reckless                     
motorists in Alaska.                                                           
                                                                               
MR. POSHARD said the department doesn't keep records of injuries               
that occur within a particular work zone.  He said he did some                 
research and found that in 1987 on the old Nenana and Parks                    
Highway, a worker was struck by a truck and killed.  In the same               
accident, another worker was severely injured with a head injury.              
In 1994 on Badger Road, a paving crew worker was working beside a              
paving lay down machine and was struck by a vehicle and received               
major leg and knee injuries and will have lifetime injuries as a               
result.  He gave more examples of workers injured on the job.  He              
concluded that it is a problem that they recognize and                         
unfortunately DOT/PF has not kept statistics on injuries that have             
occurred within a work zone.  He noted that they have statistics on            
injuries in total within the department from workers' compensation,            
and they have statistics on accidents all over the state, but there            
is no marriage of the information in the database.                             
                                                                               
Number 1515                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MASEK asked why DOT/PF didn't keep records on                   
injuries that have occurred in a work zone.                                    
                                                                               
MR. POSHARD said he is not sure that DOT/PF ever realized that                 
there was a need to differentiate.  He said that is something the              
department intends to try and keep records on in the future so that            
any future considerations about laws relating to work zones, then              
they will have that information.  He said their databases are                  
mostly geared toward federal compliance and that the federal                   
government has never requested that type of information.                       
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MASEK asked why there is a zero fiscal note.                    
                                                                               
MR. POSHARD reiterated that the department's only expense would be             
for signage.  In the cases of new construction, the department will            
try and require that the signage be done by the contractor.  He                
referred to the department's workers and said DOT/PF felt that the             
expense for signs is already in their operating budget and that                
they will try and shift a portion of that money to obtain some of              
the work zone signs.                                                           
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MASEK asked if there any signs that are put out by              
DPS dealing with violations in construction areas.                             
                                                                               
MR. POSHARD responded he is not aware of any information regarding             
violations because there is no current law that increases fines for            
work zones.  He indicated he does not believe that DPS keeps track             
of those records that differentiate between work zones.  He said he            
did not want to speak on behalf of DPS.                                        
                                                                               
Number 1633                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MASEK said she was referring to traffic fines that              
deal with moving car violations.  She said if DOT/PF had that                  
information, they would be able to see what type of increase in                
revenue there would be and that is the reason for her questions                
regarding the fiscal note.                                                     
                                                                               
MR. POSHARD said that question would be better answered by DPS.  He            
said he does not have that information.  It's not the                          
responsibility of DOT/PF to issue the violations and then collect              
those fees.  He said he believes from earlier committee meetings               
that DPS testified that they do not maintain information that                  
differentiates between a work zone and another location on a                   
particular highway.                                                            
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MASEK requested that DOT/PF provide information                 
regarding the fiscal note and the impacts, and also what DPS has to            
say about it since it involves them.  She commented that she is not            
feeling very comfortable with SB 304 without that information.  She            
asked if there is a plan to begin a "give me a break" public                   
education campaign similar to Washington State or Alaska indicating            
that this bill should become law.                                              
                                                                               
MR. POSHARD replied there will be some public education that would             
go along with this bill alerting people of the increased fines.  He            
said he is not sure exactly what form that would take if it would              
be "give me a break" specifically campaign, but there would have to            
be some sort of public information campaign.  He said they would               
produce some sort of a video, as well as have some television and              
radio spots that would hopefully run as a public service alerting              
drivers to the increase in fines.  He said he will contact DPS                 
regarding the fiscal note and if there is a reason why they have               
not put in for increased revenues or what their projections would              
be.  He said DPS testified at a earlier committee meeting and they             
indicated they did not plan to increase enforcement within a work              
zone and that they were not going to suddenly, because this law                
passes, put more troopers watching out at work zones.  They would,             
however, continue monitoring work zones as they currently do, they             
would just collect more fines for a violation that would occur                 
within that work zone.                                                         
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MASEK pointed out that a lot of work was done last              
year on the Parks Highway between Big Lake and Houston and there               
was an incident that happened there and she received numerous phone            
calls regarding the troopers and a high speed chase that they did              
through a construction site zone.  She indicated she would like                
information on how it would affect a high speed chase if it were               
done in a construction area.  She reiterated that the troopers sped            
through the construction zone without regard to the people's                   
safety.  She suggested that DOT/PF and DPS address this problem.               
                                                                               
Number 1826                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE COWDERY stated that it's probably not a function of             
DOT/PF to keep records regarding injuries within a particular work             
zone.  He said he would hope that this bill wouldn't add a                     
bureaucracy on to DOT/PF to try and track the number of injuries               
properly.                                                                      
                                                                               
SENATOR DONLEY said SB 304 is not intended as a revenue generator.             
It's really intended as a deterrent to protect the employees as                
they are exposed to working on the roadways.  He noted the bill is             
supported by the construction industry and by the people who                   
represent the workers.  He indicated he has not heard any                      
opposition to this bill through the process.                                   
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said he believes that the data regarding these            
kinds of offenses in a work zone will be easily collected with the             
passage of this bill because the enhanced fines will be part of the            
court record.  Data collection will be much easier at that point in            
time.                                                                          
                                                                               
Number 1930                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON made a motion to move CSSB 304(RLS) out of                
committee with individual recommendations and the attached fiscal              
note.  He noted that the Judiciary Committee has already considered            
a bill similar to this one which passed out of committee.                      
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MASEK objected because of her concerns with the bill            
stating that she wants some information regarding the topics she               
discussed.  She commented she would not have a problem moving the              
bill out of the committee after the information she requested is               
provided.  She said there are pieces missing to this bill that she             
would like to see included before she is able to vote in favor of              
moving it out.                                                                 
                                                                               
Number 1985                                                                    
                                                                               
JUANITA HENSLEY, Chief, Driver Services, Division of Motor                     
Vehicles, Department of Administration, told the committee the way             
that the records are kept is if someone speeds in a construction               
zone, it's still a speeding ticket and it's not coded as such that             
DOT/PF would maintain any records that it was identified as a work             
zone.  However, with this bill, there is a special speed in a                  
construction zone code that they can use which will identify those             
violations when they occur in a work zone.  If there is a traffic              
crash within in a work zone, there are several ways of tracking                
those violations.  If there's a serious injury or fatality, those              
records are kept in the trauma registry.  She said DOT/PF has a                
highway analysis system which is a traffic accident database that              
monitors and tracks all traffic crashes in the state and it will               
tell you exactly what mile post the accident happened at, what the             
contributing factor was, whether it was in a construction zone,                
whether it was speed related, et cetera.  She said that database               
reports those types of accidents to the federal government.  She               
noted that there is another database in DOT/PF within the                      
Governor's Highway Safety office through the National Highway                  
Traffic Safety Administration called the FAR System which is the               
Fatal Accident Reporting System that tracks traffic crashes                    
throughout the United States.  She said the data base identifies               
whether the crash was fatal, if the driver caused the fatal                    
accident, or whether it was a construction person.  She said the               
information is all there, it's just a matter of extrapolating it               
out of those databases.  She stated that SB 304 will allow DOT/PF              
to code violations that occur in construction zones, and not just              
code them as speeding tickets, but can code them as a violation                
within a construction zone.                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MASEK removed her objection.  She said she hopes                
that DOT/PF and DPS will be able to provide more information to the            
committee on the number of highway construction workers injured on             
the job.                                                                       
                                                                               
Number 2125                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked if there are any other objections to moving            
the bill out of committee.  There being no objection, CSSB 304(RLS)            
moved from the House Transportation Standing Committee.                        
                                                                               

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