Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/19/2002 02:03 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                              
   · Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association                                                                
   · 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.                                                                                         

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