Legislature(2001 - 2002)
02/19/2002 02:03 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 68-IMMUNITY: CABBIE DRIVING DRUNK'S CAR HOME REPRESENTATIVE NORMAN ROKEBERG, sponsor of HB 68, thanked the committee for hearing the bill. He said the bill was requested by: · Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association (CHARR) · Anchorage Downtown Partnership Association · Downtown Licensed Beverage Association in Anchorage. It would allow implementation of the "Off the Road Program" commonly know as the "Tipsy Taxi Provisions". This program would allow two taxi drivers to take an inebriated drinker home along with his vehicle. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG explained many drinkers are reluctant to leave their vehicle at the premise where they were drinking. When it comes to that crucial decision about whether or not they should drive home their judgment may be swayed by the fact they do not want to leave their nice new vehicle in the parking lot. They might make that decision improperly. The Anchorage Downtown Partnership put together a program that allows a cab driver to take an inebriate home in one cab and allows another cab driver to drive that persons car home. This service is provided for a fee of $40, a very reasonable fee in the Anchorage bowl area. The problem is they believe it would cost an excess of $1000 per month for taxi's to insure this service. They came forward with this legislation that provides for limited immunity in these circumstances. The bill grants immunity typical of defendants of Dram Shop liability cases. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said the bill protects potential third party right of action by the implied consent subsection on page 2, line 13 (d). If the cab driver driving the inebriates car hits another car the subsection allows for the person who was damaged to seek the insurance claim against that car even though the cab driver was driving it rather than the owner. It does not preclude liability in cases of gross negligence, reckless or intentional misconduct. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said this is a good samaritan bill. It allows a small program that could have some lasting effects on the safety of streets in Alaska to go forward. KAC'E McDOWELL, Executive Director, Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association (CHARR), said this bill would be utilized state wide, not just in Anchorage. They started the program in Anchorage because it was such a necessity for getting people's cars home from downtown where they cannot leave their cars. She was working on programs all over the state for the Safe Drive Program and the Off the Road Program was going to be incorporated in those programs. Affiliates around the state sent letters attesting to the fact they would like to incorporate this in their Safe Drive Program. She talked to several cab drivers that have been utilizing this program but they fear the insurance is not going with the car as it would in the case of someone too intoxicated to make that decision. She said this is not just for inebriated people. Responsible drivers want to get home and get their car home at a reasonable fee. They want to know their car will be safe and not leave it in a place where it will be towed or vandalized. CHAIRMAN COWDERY said he was under the impression if he drives someone else's car, liability insurance is furnished for the car whether the driver is insured or not. He asked Representative Rokeberg how that fit in with this legislation. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said he believed Chairman Cowdery was correct. He thought insurance followed the car not the driver in Alaska. This bill would make sure that was the case and would allow for recovery on the part of an injured third party in case there was an accident caused by the taxi driver driving the person's car. He said Ms. McDowell made a good point and he had used the word inebriate when he should not have. It is really a person who is under the influence. In Alaska, that would be to have a .08 Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). He said the committee should be aware the definition of impairment had been lowered all the way down to .04 BAC. You could be impaired or legally under the influence of alcohol if you only had .04 BAC, which may be only one or two drinks. This service would be available to anybody who had a couple of drinks and was concerned about whether or not they had their full faculties. SENATOR ELTON asked about page 1, line 10. He wanted to know why they restricted the provisions of the bill to people who start driving from or near licensed premises. He said they were excluding a large class of instances in which people may drink to excess such as wedding receptions, retirement parties and other kinds of events that are not at or near a licensed premise. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said with a grant of tort immunity they want to make sure the scope is very narrow and it can be administered under the law properly. There is potential to allow two cab drivers to come to a home but they should walk before they run. They need to make sure the program is workable and adopted throughout the state rather than expand its immunity. If they were to do that it might kill the program because economics are limited. The $40 rate in downtown Anchorage is going to be subsidized by the premise owners or the participating groups. Two cab drivers may be very expensive. There is an implicit subsidy of the rate from or near licensed premises. The rate for the general public would not be subsidizing and the fees would go up substantially. Expanding it would probably kill the bill. SENATOR ELTON said if a person is in a licensed premise in Palmer but lives in south Anchorage that would be a greater cost than somebody that needs to get from a wedding reception in mid Anchorage to College Park. He asked to meet with the sponsor or his staff to talk about some of the restrictions. He thought it was a good idea but did not deal with the whole problem. MS. McDOWELL explained their Off the Road Program is through Anchorage Against Drunk Driving. The bill would relieve the taxi cab driver from liability and then the Off the Road Program will be a separate entity. Whether this will be available to someone in Eagle River will have to do with whether Eagle River gets involved in the program. These are two separate entities the passing of the bill to lift the liability then they can do the program. They ran into a problem doing the program because they were afraid they might put the liability on the taxi cab drivers. Taxi drivers were charging four times the meter to take a car home and now through grants and money from the bars and restaurants there will be a $40 charge. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said it was a tort issue and would be going to the Senate Judiciary Committee. SENATOR WILKEN moved CSSSHB 68 (JUD) from committee with individual recommendations and attached zero fiscal note. There being no objection, the motion carried.