Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 17

04/07/2005 01:30 PM House TRANSPORTATION

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01:39:45 PM Start
01:41:42 PM SB63
02:15:01 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved Out of Committee
SB  63-USE SEAT BELT ROAD SIGNS                                                                                               
CO-CHAIR GATTO  announced that the  only order of  business would                                                               
be  SENATE  BILL  NO.  63     "An  Act  relating  to  road  signs                                                               
encouraging the use of safety belts."                                                                                           
CHERYL  SUTTON,  Staff  to  Senator  Ben  Stevens,  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, said SB 63 is  simple but meaningful.  It encourages                                                               
the posting  of memorial  signs promoting  the use  of seatbelts.                                                               
Under the  Highway Fatality  Memorial Sign  Program, there  is no                                                               
provision for  a seatbelt  sign, just  "Please drive  safely" and                                                               
"Please don't  drink and drive."   She said SB 63  adds a "Buckle                                                               
up for  safety" sign.  Over  55 percent of highway  fatalities in                                                               
Alaska may have  been prevented by wearing  seatbelts, she noted.                                                               
The  bill  allows the  loved  ones  of  those killed  in  traffic                                                               
accidents  while not  wearing a  seatbelt to  request a  memorial                                                               
sign encouraging other drivers to buckle up, she said.                                                                          
1:41:42 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR GATTO  asked how  it can  be known  if a  seatbelt would                                                               
have prevented the fatality.                                                                                                    
MS. SUTTON said there are statistics.   Senator Ben Stevens has a                                                               
constituent who  lost a son  in such a  way.  A  passenger walked                                                               
away  from  that  accident  simply  because  she  was  wearing  a                                                               
seatbelt.  The department keeps data on fatalities.                                                                             
CO-CHAIR GATTO repeated his question.                                                                                           
MS. SUTTON said investigators make that determination.                                                                          
1:44:24 PM                                                                                                                    
MARK   NEIDHOLD,  Chief,   Design  and   Construction  Standards,                                                               
Department of Transportation & Public  Facilities (DOT), said DOT                                                               
would operate  under the premise  that if occupants  are properly                                                               
restrained, they have a very  good chance of surviving accidents.                                                               
He said DOT  will read the application and accident  data, and if                                                               
there is a fatality and no seatbelt, it would meet the standard.                                                                
1:47:09 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  GATTO asked  if DOT  would need  an application  before                                                               
erecting a sign.                                                                                                                
MR. NEIDHOLD  said DOT  has not yet  written regulations,  but it                                                               
would  likely follow  existing memorial  sign regulations,  which                                                               
require a requester to put in an application.                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR GATTO asked about the existing memorial sign program.                                                                  
MR. NEIDHOLD said that program allows  a loved one to apply for a                                                               
memorial sign that  says either "Please drive  safely" or "Please                                                               
don't drink and  drive."  The department reviews  the location to                                                               
make sure  it is  a safe place  to put it,  and erects  the sign,                                                               
maintaining it for  ten years.  The cost is  about $500 per sign.                                                               
The sign has a placard with the sponsor's or the victim's name.                                                                 
1:49:59 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR ELKINS asked  how DOT would handle it if  20 people died                                                               
on one corner.                                                                                                                  
MR. NEIDHOLD said  the department would probably put  up one sign                                                               
with multiple placards.                                                                                                         
CO-CHAIR ELKINS said the placard is 30 inches long.                                                                             
MR. NEIDHOLD said it sounds big  but at 12 feet off the pavement,                                                               
it is comparatively small.                                                                                                      
CO-CHAIR ELKINS asked if the signs are distracting.                                                                             
1:51:54 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  NEIDHOLD said  proliferation of  signs is  a concern  of the                                                               
department,  and that  is why  it supports  SB 63.   It  has very                                                               
little  control  over  non-DOT  memorials,  and  this  gives  DOT                                                               
placement  oversight  and  decision  powers.    It  gives  DOT  a                                                               
mechanism to control  what goes up, making sure  signs are crash-                                                               
worthy and safely located.                                                                                                      
1:53:43 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR ELKINS  said it  is commendable that  DOT wants  to take                                                               
the heat on dealing with this issue.                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  THOMAS asked  about  the effective  date and  how                                                               
long ago could the accident have occurred.                                                                                      
1:55:45 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. NEIDHOLD said the sign can exist for ten years.                                                                             
CO-CHAIR GATTO asked about retroactivity.                                                                                       
1:56:14 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. SUTTON said  the legislation is not meant  to be retroactive.                                                               
Memorial signs are already available with different wording.                                                                    
MR. NEIDHOLD said  current regulations do not  set an application                                                               
time limit.   If DOT  were flooded  with requests, it  would push                                                               
for a regulation change.  He said DOT has not seen that problem.                                                                
1:57:59 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR GATTO asked if ten years is  too long to have a sign up,                                                               
and then noted that  DOT can change the length of  time a sign is                                                               
up without direction from legislature.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS asked about monuments of rocks.                                                                           
1:59:34 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. NEIDHOLD  said DOT looks  at monuments from a  traffic safety                                                               
viewpoint, and  a pile of rocks  puts others at risks  because it                                                               
is  not crash  proof or  may  be distracting.   This  legislation                                                               
encourages family  members to do the  right kind of sign  and DOT                                                               
pays for it, he said.                                                                                                           
2:01:36 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER  asked about families contributing  to the                                                               
MS.  SUTTON said  DOT  made a  decision not  to  charge the  sign                                                               
sponsor; it is  a public service.   Senator Stevens' constituents                                                               
were willing to pay for a sign, but it was not an option.                                                                       
2:03:42 PM                                                                                                                    
TIARA WALL,  12-year-old student,  Juneau, said SB  63 is  a good                                                               
idea  to remind  drivers to  buckle  up, and  knowing a  fatality                                                               
occurred gives them more incentive.   She said in 2003 about 6.32                                                               
million crashes occurred and about  63 percent of people were not                                                               
wearing  seatbelts.    She  noted  that if  just  90  percent  of                                                               
Americans  buckled up,  there  would be  5,500  fewer deaths  and                                                               
132,000  fewer  injuries.    Everyone  ends  up  paying  for  the                                                               
accidents  through increased  taxes, health  care, and  insurance                                                               
costs.    Signs remind  people  about  the risks,  she  declared.                                                               
"Imagine  how much  pain and  misery we  could solve,"  she said.                                                               
Seat belts provide  effective safety in cars,  saving 9,500 lives                                                               
a year.  She concluded that SB 63 is a really good idea.                                                                        
2:07:05 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR GATTO asked Ms. Wall if she has been in an accident.                                                                   
MS. WALL said no, but her family was backed into.                                                                               
CO-CHAIR GATTO  said he was  suggesting changing the  language to                                                               
say DOT can  erect a sign "at  or near" the site  of an accident,                                                               
instead of "at" the site.                                                                                                       
MS. SUTTON said DOT already has that discretion.                                                                                
2:10:53 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR GATTO said  words are really important and  asked DOT if                                                               
it is restricted by that specific language.                                                                                     
MR. NEIDHOLD said he would defer to the attorney general.                                                                       
CO-CHAIR GATTO said DOT can simply  define the site as larger, so                                                               
he can live with the current language.                                                                                          
2:13:16 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR GATTO asked about people attaching flowers to signs.                                                                   
MR. NEIDHOLD said the department doesn't notice that.                                                                           
2:14:11 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  ELKINS moved  to report  SB  63 out  of committee  with                                                               
individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes.                                                                   
There  being   no  objection,   SB  63   moved  from   the  House                                                               
Transportation Standing Committee.                                                                                              

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