Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/06/2004 01:50 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 438 - MOVE OVER LAW FOR DRIVERS                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 2294                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the  next order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO. 438, "An Act  relating to motorists moving over or                                                               
slowing down for emergency vehicles."                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 2300                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM  moved to adopt  CSHB 438(STA).   There being                                                               
no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM, sponsor  of HB 438, explained  that the bill                                                               
was  brought  to him  by  public  safety  officers in  the  state                                                               
because of concern about danger.  He deferred to Mr. Rudig.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 2320                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MATTHEW  RUDIG, Staff  to Representative  Jim Holm,  Alaska State                                                               
Legislature, sponsor, agreed that safety  is the goal of the bill                                                               
and  said moving  over  and  slowing down  can  save  lives.   He                                                               
reported  that 93  law enforcement  officers  across the  country                                                               
from 1997  to 2002 were  struck and killed by  vehicles alongside                                                               
of  roads;  many  more  were   injured,  and  substantially  more                                                               
experienced  close calls.   Although  no measure  of "move  over"                                                               
legislation  will  guarantee  complete safety  for  officers  and                                                               
other emergency personnel, he said  this bill, along with further                                                               
public education efforts, can heighten  drivers' awareness of the                                                               
inherent danger to these men and  women who serve the public.  He                                                               
indicated that  at least  38 states  have already  addressed this                                                               
issue.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
[An at-ease  was called because  of a technical  difficulty; this                                                               
is the end of Tape 04-60.]                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 04-61, SIDE A                                                                                                            
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE called the meeting back to order.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. RUDIG noted that Allen  Storey and Shelley Owens could answer                                                               
questions.   He  closed by  saying, "These  people fight  for our                                                               
lives every day, ... and  this legislation is just an opportunity                                                               
for the legislature to fight for theirs."                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0100                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
ALLEN  STOREY, Lieutenant,  Central  Office,  Division of  Alaska                                                               
State Troopers,  Department of Public Safety  (DPS), testified in                                                               
support of HB  438, saying it's long overdue.   He gave real-life                                                               
examples involving  two of his  own patrol  cars, the car  of his                                                               
first  patrol sergeant,  two troopers  in the  Palmer region  who                                                               
were  struck  recently, and  a  near  miss  he'd seen  just  that                                                               
morning.   If  the bill  becomes  law, he  surmised that  [DPS's]                                                               
public information  office can  get the  word out  through public                                                               
service announcements  and other  efforts so  people know  of the                                                               
requirement,  which is  to slow  down  and provide  a cushion  of                                                               
safety to  people who  are trying  to help others  in need  - not                                                               
just  troopers  and  police  officers,  but  also  volunteer  and                                                               
professional firefighters  and others taking care  of business on                                                               
the shoulder of the road.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0239                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SHELLEY  OWENS,  Health  Program   Manager,  Community  Health  &                                                               
Emergency   Medical   Services,   Division  of   Public   Health,                                                               
Department of  Health and Social Services  (DHSS), testified that                                                               
the department supports this bill in  the hope it will reduce the                                                               
incidence of  secondary collisions  that result  from inattentive                                                               
and  distracted drivers.   She  provided  statistics and  further                                                               
information as follows:                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     It  is  estimated  that   there  are  12,000  emergency                                                                    
     medical  vehicle collisions  each  year,  and the  U.S.                                                                    
     Fire  Administration  reports  that  emergency  vehicle                                                                    
     crashes  are  the second  leading  cause  of death  for                                                                    
     firefighters.  The  International Association of Chiefs                                                                    
     of Police  reported that in  1997 nearly 40  percent of                                                                    
     law enforcement officers  who died in the  line of duty                                                                    
     died in traffic.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     And Washington State found that  in a seven-year period                                                                    
     over  3,000 shoulder  collisions -  collisions where  a                                                                    
     vehicle was parked  on the side of the  road - resulted                                                                    
     in 40 deaths  and 1,770 injuries.  In  Florida during a                                                                    
     five-year period, 1996 to  2000, motorists crashed into                                                                    
     working ... law enforcement  vehicles that were stopped                                                                    
     along Florida  roadways 1,800 times, resulting  in five                                                                    
     deaths and over 400 injuries.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     In Alaska, in  the four-year period from  1998 to 2001,                                                                    
     386  emergency  response   vehicles  were  involved  in                                                                    
     accidents.   Of the 386 crashes,  46 incidents involved                                                                    
     a parked  emergency response vehicle.   There's  also a                                                                    
     statistic from  California that  ... once  there's been                                                                    
     an initial accident, ... the  fact that this vehicle is                                                                    
     on the side of the  road creates a 600 percent increase                                                                    
     of likelihood of a secondary collision.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. OWENS concluded:                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     Motor  vehicle   operators  are  exposed   to  multiple                                                                    
     sources   of  distraction   including  mobile   phones,                                                                    
     radios,  children, failure  to see  or hear  sirens and                                                                    
     lights,  and   driver  inattention.     The  department                                                                    
     supports the efforts to reduce  the number and severity                                                                    
     of injuries  to fire, EMS [emergency  medical service],                                                                    
     and law enforcement personnel at emergency scenes.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 0390                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG indicated he  had a question for someone                                                               
from the Criminal  Division of the Department of  Law, but didn't                                                               
see anyone  present.   Noting that he  was searching  for statute                                                               
related to  mental states and  the requirements  for culpability,                                                               
he explained  that subsection (a)  of the bill requires  a person                                                               
to move  over [or slow  to specified speeds], and  subsection (b)                                                               
makes  it a  class A  misdemeanor  if [the  behavior] results  in                                                               
injury.   However, it just  says "who violates this  section" [on                                                               
line 14],  which he suggested almost  makes it a crime  of strict                                                               
liability.   Thus he proposed that  the bill should at  least say                                                               
"negligently or  something" because people  can go to jail  for a                                                               
year.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA remarked  that "knowing"  is important  in a                                                               
lot  of the  criminal [statutes],  but he  can't imagine  someone                                                               
using  the defense  of having  sped by  a car  that had  flashing                                                               
lights without  knowing, which  should be  even worse,  perhaps a                                                               
felony.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG read from  the statute he'd been looking                                                               
for, AS 11.81.610, which stated in part:                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
          (b) Except as provided in AS 11.81.600(b), if a                                                                       
     provision  of   law  defining   an  offense   does  not                                                                    
     prescribe a culpable mental  state, the culpable mental                                                                    
     state that must be proved with respect to                                                                                  
          (1) conduct is "knowingly"; and                                                                                       
          (2) a circumstance or a result is "recklessly."                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG said  he  thought  that probably  would                                                               
apply,  but  wasn't  sure  and  was  simply  drawing  it  to  the                                                               
committee's attention.   He added that he was  satisfied with the                                                               
language  now because  he believed  AS 11.81.610  "would be  what                                                               
would be read into the statute if we leave it alone."                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE asked  whether anyone else wished to  testify.  She                                                               
then closed public testimony.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 0619                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM  moved to  adopt  Amendment  1, labeled  23-                                                               
LS1602\D.1, Luckhaupt, 4/2/04, which read:                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     Page 1, lines 11 - 13:                                                                                                     
          Delete all material.                                                                                                  
        Insert "fighter, shall slow to a reasonable and                                                                         
     prudent speed below the speed limit."                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE  asked  whether   there  were  any  objections  to                                                               
Amendment 1.  There being none, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  remarked  that  Amendment 1  was  good  and                                                               
clarified a  lot for him,  but requested clarification.   He said                                                               
he understands  the circumstance when  a trooper or  ambulance is                                                               
dealing  with an  accident or  injured person.   But  can someone                                                               
still drive  by at  55 miles  an hour  in the  right lane  of the                                                               
highway if  a trooper has pulled  a driver over for  speeding and                                                               
they're  in the  "breakdown"  lane?   Would that  be  a safe  and                                                               
prudent  speed under  the circumstances,  or  would it  now be  a                                                               
crime? he asked.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM answered:                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     It's  my  understanding ...  that  the  reason that  we                                                                    
     offered  the   amendment  was  so  that   it  would  be                                                                    
     reasonable and prudent speed.   And that means it would                                                                    
     have  to  be something  defensible,  at  some point  in                                                                    
     time, if there  was a problem.  And I  would assume, if                                                                    
     someone was going  55 miles an hour past  ... a problem                                                                    
     on  the side  of  the  road, he  would  miss the  other                                                                    
     person.    If he  didn't,  I  suppose  it would  be  no                                                                    
     different than  any other case where  you are negligent                                                                    
     or reckless in your driving.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  paraphrased subsection  (a)(1), which  talks about                                                               
safely vacating the  lane closest to the emergency,  fire, or law                                                               
enforcement vehicle  when there are  two or more  lanes traveling                                                               
in the same direction.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA noted  that many  people stay  in the  right                                                               
lane when they see a trooper  pull someone over for speeding, but                                                               
said he thinks that would be  OK with Amendment 1 because it says                                                               
"or if you are driving safely under the circumstances."                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE concurred, mentioning "reasonable and prudent".                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 0754                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE asked  Representative  Holm  whether he'd  thought                                                               
about  adding an  "emergency signal  override" and  whether there                                                               
already was a House version  of Senator Therriault's [legislation                                                               
related to that].                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA said, "Let's get that in there too."                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM answered that he hadn't thought about it.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG reported  that he'd  talked to  Senator                                                               
Therriault  about that  bill because  the  same firefighters  who                                                               
were  interested in  the carbon  monoxide  and arson  legislation                                                               
also considered  that a priority.   He recalled that  the feeling                                                               
expressed  was  that  there  was  no  need  for  House  companion                                                               
legislation because the Senate version was moving.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE remarked, "Fair enough - just an idea."                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said it's a good idea.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 0816                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM  moved to report  CSHB 438(STA),  as amended,                                                               
out  of   committee  with  individual  recommendations   and  the                                                               
accompanying  fiscal  notes.   There  being  no  objection,  CSHB
438(JUD)  was   reported  from   the  House   Judiciary  Standing                                                               
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                

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