Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/22/1995 01:45 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 57 - LICENSING REQUIREMENTS FOR DRIVERS                                
 Number 330                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN, bill sponsor, announced that his staff                  
 member, Jeff Logan, would describe the bill.  Juanita Hensley from            
 the Division of Motor Vehicles would also add important testimony             
 as well as answer questions.  HB 57 attempts to cut down on the               
 carnage created by skillful, albeit perhaps immature drivers in the           
 state who have been granted the privilege of driving on our                   
 highways.  Quite often they are not to the point of maturity that             
 is required to manipulate a machine of such potential killing                 
 capacity.  This would provide for a graduated license that                    
 continually reminds the teen-ager of his responsibility when                  
 driving an automobile.                                                        
 JEFF LOGAN, Legislative Assistant to Representative Joe Green,                
 introduced HB 57.  HB 57 provides three steps to graduated                    
 licensing:  An instructional permit, a provisional license, and a             
 regular license.  The point is to phase a young driver into                   
 "driverhood," if you will.  Most bicyclists do not start out on a             
 bicycle, they start out on a trike, from which they move on to a              
 bicycle with training wheels, and then on to "bikeriderhood," and             
 then gradually into full control.  The sponsor would like to apply            
 the same principle to learning how to drive a car.  Under terms of            
 the bill, if the person is 21 years of age, they must hold a                  
 provisional license for one year, before being issued an                      
 unrestricted license; so 16-, 17-, 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds must            
 first hold a provisional license before they get an unrestricted              
 license.  If a person is under 18 years of age, they must also                
 first hold a learner's permit for at least six months.  The                   
 learner's permit requirement does not exist if you are over 18.               
 There are two key differences between a regular driver's license              
 and a provisional or restricted, or graduated license.  The first             
 difference is the holder of a provisional driver's license is                 
 prohibited from driving between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., with the                   
 exception of driving to and from work in a direct route.  It is               
 essentially a curfew for those young drivers.  Regular drivers can            
 accumulate 12 points in 12 months before their license is                     
 suspended, or 18 points in 24 months.  A provisional license holder           
 may only accumulate 6 points in 12 months before their license is             
 Number 420                                                                    
 JUANITA HENSLEY, Chief, Driver Services, Division of Motor                    
 Vehicles, Department of Public Safety, stated that the department,            
 as well as law enforcement agencies statewide, support this concept           
 of a graduated driver's license.  A graduated license is basically            
 a restricted license program that allows youth drivers to learn               
 over a period of time, with restrictions.  The idea is to help                
 beginners to learn to drive step-by-step, by controlling their                
 progression towards full driving privileges.  Restrictions are                
 lifted gradually and systematically until the driver graduates to             
 an unrestricted license.  This helps in two ways:  It assures that            
 new drivers accumulate the behind-the-wheel-training and experience           
 in low risk settings.  It also means that drivers are older and may           
 be more mature by the time they get their driver's license.  Youth            
 drivers in Alaska are definitely over-represented in all of the               
 statistics in the state.  Drivers between 16 - 20 represent 6.2               
 percent of the licensed drivers in Alaska; however, they represent            
 12.9 percent of the total traffic crashes in the state.  Over 28              
 percent of the total fatal crashes involved youths between 16 and             
 20.  The states that have implemented graduated licenses have                 
 benefitted.  California and Maryland both report a reduction of               
 crashes between ages 15 through 17.  California had a 5 percent               
 reduction in crashes, and  Maryland had a 10 percent reduction.               
 Oregon reported a 16 percent reduction in crashes for male drivers            
 ages 16 - 17 with the graduated license program.  The bill, if                
 implemented in Alaska, will have a learner stage, an intermediate             
 stage, and then they will have the full licensure stage.  After a             
 period of time, as they drive accident free, those restrictions are           
 lifted.  Various police departments felt this bill would have the             
 potential to reduce some crimes being caused by juveniles between             
 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.  The following organizations support the bill:              
 The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the                 
 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the International                     
 Association of Chiefs of Police, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the           
 National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives,            
 the National Association of Independent Insurers, the National                
 Safety Council, the National Transportation Safety Board, the                 
 Alaska Peace Officers, and the Chiefs of Police for Alaska.                   
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if a teen-ager coming from another state                
 would have to start at ground zero.                                           
 MS. HENSLEY answered that the teen-ager's experience from another             
 state would count towards this program.                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked Ms. Hensley to explain the new               
 restrictions in that category.                                                
 Number 485                                                                    
 MS. HENSLEY explained that if you are between 14 and 17 years of              
 age, you have to hold an instruction permit for at least six months           
 before you can apply for the next stage, which is the provisional             
 license stage.  That does not mean we are going to give a 14-year-            
 old a driver's license after six months.  They are not eligible to            
 apply for the provisional license until they are at least 16.  At             
 age 16, before you can get a provisional license, you have to hold            
 at least an instruction permit for six months.  If you have done              
 that, then you are issued a provisional license.  You hold that               
 provisional license for one year, violation free, before you can go           
 to the full license stage.                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked if the only difference between the           
 provisional license and the regular license was the amount of                 
 points you can get.                                                           
 MS. HENSLEY said there are two aspects - the amount of points you             
 can get, and a restricted curfew on the license.  No driving is               
 allowed between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless it is needed for work.               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if the curfew applied to ages 14 - 21.                  
 MS. HENSLEY said it applies through 20 years of age, for the                  
 provisional license portion, not the instruction permit.                      
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if in that case, someone who did not get into           
 their provisional license status until they were 19 or 20 years               
 old, could not drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.                                
 MS. HENSLEY said that was correct, unless they needed it for work.            
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said he supports the bill and the need to                
 learn to drive in a more sheltered learning environment, but he               
 wondered what the statistics were for those who learned to drive              
 over the age of 20, and what their accident rate is during the                
 first year they drive.                                                        
 MS. HENSLEY said she did not have statistics for someone's first              
 year of driving.                                                              
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked how this would be applied to a teen-ager           
 who is married and has children, if her husband is not home during            
 those hours.  Would she be restricted to not being able to drive a            
 car in case of emergencies?  Is she not considered to be an adult             
 because she is married?  And what about the male in the same                  
 MS. HENSLEY said this does not speak to whether they are married or           
 single.  This is to do with age and experience in driving.  Under             
 those situations, she thought the person would be helped out by law           
 enforcement to get that child to the hospital.                                
 CHAIRMAN PORTER noted that the emergency response availability is             
 better in some areas than in others.  In unincorporated areas such            
 as rural sections of Alaska, those kinds of responses involve long            
 routes, and he would have some concerns about this himself.                   
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS wondered how other states handle that.                   
 MS. HENSLEY did not know if that had actually been addressed in               
 other states.                                                                 
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS said it should be looked at; however, she was            
 in support of the bill.                                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE did not think that just because a teen-ager is           
 married they are an adult.  They cannot enter into contracts, they            
 cannot drink, etc.                                                            
 CHAIRMAN PORTER said the age of adulthood is 18, so he was                    
 concerned about putting restrictions on people all the way up to              
 age 21.                                                                       
 Number 610                                                                    
 MARK JOHNSON, Chief of the Emergency Medical Services Section,                
 Department of Health and Social Services, added that they support             
 the legislation.  The number one cause of hospitalization for teen-           
 agers and young adults in our state is motor vehicle trauma.  The             
 second highest cause of fatality is also motor vehicle trauma                 
 following suicide.  The average cost of hospital care for these               
 young people is over $20,000, not counting physician charges billed           
 separately, or ambulance charges for post-hospital care or                    
 rehabilitation.  This is also a public health issue.                          
 Number 700                                                                    
 MS. HENSLEY mentioned that the state of Alaska received a federal             
 grant for $75,000 to implement the curfew restriction.  Without the           
 curfew provision, we would not be able to implement this program              
 with federal funds.                                                           
 CHAIRMAN PORTER admitted he has a philosophical problem with this             
 restriction from age 18 years on.  An average 17-year-old will have           
 a full license at that stage anyway, so it would only apply to                
 someone who got started later.                                                
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN still felt this problem was related to             
 alcohol.  We are creating a dilemma for someone who is at a party,            
 doing whatever kids and young adults are going to be doing, and now           
 it is approaching one o'clock.  Their first choice is to go home              
 early, which not very many of them are going to do realistically,             
 or their second choice is to violate the law by going home sometime           
 between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., which is more likely.  This certainly              
 gets the message across to ignore the law, which is basically                 
 unenforceable.  The third option is to wait until 5 a.m. to go                
 home.  He did not feel it was a reasonable restriction that was               
 achieving much.                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE made a motion to move HB 57 out of committee             
 with attached fiscal notes and individual recommendations.  Ms.               
 Hensley explained that the fiscal impact would actually make money.           
 Seeing no objection, it was so ordered.                                       

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