Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/27/1996 01:30 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
           HB  57 LICENSING REQUIREMENTS FOR DRIVERS                          
 MELINDA GRUENING, legislative assistant to Representative Joe                 
 Green, explained the intent of the measure is to establish a                  
 graduated drivers license system.  Currently 16 to 21 year old                
 drivers comprise 6.2 percent of Alaskan drivers but account for               
 13.9 percent of all accidents and 28 percent of all fatal crashes.            
 A large majority of those accidents happen in the early hours of              
 the morning.  HB 57 will ease the novice driver, under controlled             
 conditions, into the driving environment by creating a provisional            
 license.  Nighttime driving hours will be restricted between the              
 hours of 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. with the exception of travelling             
 the most direct route to and from work.  A licensee with a                    
 provisional license could only accumulate 8 points during a 12                
 month period.  After a one-year period, if the provisional licensee           
 has demonstrated a safe driving record, an unrestricted driver's              
 license would be issued.  HB 57 is designed to allow the Department           
 of Public Safety (DPS) to take advantage of new federal funding to            
 implement such legislation.                                                   
 SENATOR GREEN moved to adopt the committee substitute.  SENATOR               
 ELLIS objected to the motion and asked Representative Green to                
 speak for the bill.                                                           
 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN offered to answer questions.  SENATOR                
 ELLIS asked about the fiscal impact of the legislation.                       
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN replied that a majority of the costs would be            
 reimbursed by a federal grant.  HB 57 will help protect teenagers             
 against themselves, and while their reflexes and ability to drive             
 may be better than an older person, their concentration may be less           
 than someone more mature.  This bill will get teenagers through the           
 most critical period and is designed to be a protective measure,              
 not an intrusive one.                                                         
 Number 500                                                                    
 SENATOR ADAMS expressed concern about the point system on page 3              
 because it decreases the amount of accumulated points from 12 to 8.           
 This topic was debated in the Transportation Committee, and a                 
 compromise amount of 10 points was discussed.                                 
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN observed the original amount of points in the            
 bill was was raised from 6 to 8 points.  He emphasized that a                 
 driver's license is a privelege.                                              
 SENATOR GREEN felt to accumulate 8 to 12 points in one year to                
 require a good deal of irresponsible behavior.                                
 JOHN GEORGE, representing the National Association of Independent             
 Insurers (NAII), testified in support of the bill.  On a personal             
 note, he stated as Assistant Fire Chief of the Auke Bay Fire                  
 District, he has responded to many late night automobile accidents.           
 He believes this bill will ensure the safety of teenagers by                  
 creating a curfew.                                                            
 Number 458                                                                    
 MARK JOHNSON, Chief of the Emergency Medical Services Section of              
 the Department of Health and Social Services, testified in support            
 of HB 57 as data from hospitals show that teenagers treated for               
 motor vehicle accidents are double the rate of other drivers.  The            
 cost for hospitalization of that group averages over $20,000.                 
 SENATOR TAYLOR asked if Mr. Johnson had reviewed statistical                  
 information from other states that have implemented a similar                 
 program.  MR. JOHNSON replied he had reviewed information provided            
 by DPS and from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's                  
 JUANITA HENSLEY, Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles, DPS,             
 testified in support of HB 57 and noted widespread support for the            
 legislation by other national and international groups.  The                  
 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made                   
 available incentive grants to Alaska and North Carolina several               
 years ago to help implement and study a graduated license system to           
 see if it does save lives.  HB 57 is a step forward in that                   
 process.  Alaska has already implemented a "use it, lose it"                  
 sanction system for driver's licenses.  Because driver education is           
 not provided to students, they learn by trial and error.                      
 SENATOR ADAMS asked how many points a teen driver would get for two           
 curfew violations.  MS. HENSLEY answered each violation receives              
 two points.  After accumulating four points, DMV would send a                 
 letter to the licensee providing him/her the option of eliminating            
 two points by taking a defensive driving class.                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR asked Ms. Hensley to explain the changes made in the           
 proposed committee substitute.                                                
 MS. HENSLEY stated the original bill disallowed a licensee between            
 the ages of 16 and 17 to get a provisional license until he/she had           
 held an instructional permit for a period of six months.  At the              
 age of 18 through 20, a licensee would have to have a provisional             
 license for one year before being granted full driving priveleges.            
 The proposed committee substitute removes the provision for 18 to             
 20 year olds, and would allow a 15 year old who obtained an                   
 instructional permit for six months prior to obtain a provisional             
 driver's license at age 16 after passing a test.                              
 SENATOR ELLIS asked if exceptions to driving during the curfew                
 hours were discussed when the bill was heard in the House and who             
 decides what the most direct route to and from work would be.                 
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN answered the House did consider longer curfew            
 hours from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.  Most of the discussion centered           
 around the fact that teenagers do not need to be out between the              
 hours of 1:00 and 5:00 unless it is for working purposes because              
 there is a rapid escalation of accidents during those hours.                  
 Regarding the second question, the police officer would determine             
 the most direct route, and could call the place of employment to              
 verify where the driver was enroute to and from.                              
 SENATOR ELLIS asked if an officer would also determine whether the            
 driver was driving from a legitimate activity during curfew hours,            
 such as a school function.  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN replied the                  
 officer would make that determination, but it could be appealed by            
 the driver.                                                                   
 SENATOR ELLIS stated he was trying to clarify whether driving to              
 and from work would be the only legitimate reason to drive during             
 curfew hours.  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated if this bill becomes               
 law, the teenager would need to be driven by someone else during              
 curfew hours for any activity other than work.                                
 MS. HENSLEY clarified if a teenage driver has a driver over the age           
 of 25 in the car, then the provisional license driver would be able           
 to drive during curfew hours.                                                 
 SENATOR ELLIS questioned why the age of 25 was used.  MS. HENSLEY             
 commented the insurance industry uses the age of 25 to determine              
 that a driver is no longer a higher risk.  Current law allows a               
 person with an instructional permit to drive in a car with a 19               
 year old; that would be changed because it is believed a 25 year              
 old is more mature.  She noted that age was chosen arbitrarily.               
 SENATOR ELLIS believed young people feel contempt for the laws when           
 they differentiate by age for various activities, and felt that               
 provision in the bill needs more thought.                                     
 MS. HENLSEY remarked New Zealand and the province of Ontario have             
 successful graduated license programs based on novice driving,                
 rather than age.                                                              
 SENATOR ELLIS removed his objection to the adoption of SCSHB
 57(JUD) therefore the motion carried.                                         
 SENATOR MILLER moved SCSHB 57(JUD) out of committee with individual           
 recommendations.  There being no objection, the motion carried.               

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