Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/22/1995 01:45 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 suspended. 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 situation? 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.