Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/03/2004 03:23 PM House JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 255 - ILLEGAL USE TRAFFIC PREEMPTION DEVICE Number 0834 CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the next order of business would be CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 255(FIN), "An Act relating to traffic preemption devices." Number 0883 DENNIS MICHEL, Staff to Senator Gene Therriault, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, on behalf of Senator Therriault, said that traffic preemption devices are used to change stoplights from red to green in the direction one is traveling in, and this allows one to pass through intersections without having to wait on traffic coming from other directions. Traffic preemption devices have been used by emergency response providers in Alaska for the past 15 years. Unfortunately, because traffic preemption devices are available for purchase by the public, their use by the public in the Lower 48 has led to accidents and traffic problems. MR. MICHEL explained that SB 255 would make it illegal for someone who is not either an emergency response provider or driving a state or municipal road maintenance vehicle or public transit vehicle to use a traffic preemption device. Additionally, before a public transit vehicle can use a traffic preemption device, it has to be approved by the local municipality's "general council." REPRESENTATIVE GARA said he supports the bill, but opined that those who install such devices are guilty of the worst conduct. He suggested that the sponsor should look into creating a criminal penalty for those who install traffic preemption devices in the vehicles of people who are not authorized to use such devices. MR. MICHEL indicated he would research that issue. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG mentioned that the "firefighters association" has relayed to him that this issue is one of its top three legislative priorities. MR. MICHEL concurred. Number 1119 REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON moved to report CSSB 255(FIN) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked whether [unauthorized] use of traffic preemption devices has caused accidents. MR. MICHEL reiterated that there have been reports of such occurring in the Lower 48. He added, "But because most of these devices are not illegal at the time of the accident, they aren't factored in on other accidents, so I'm sure there's more than what is reported." REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG offered his belief that intentional unauthorized use of a traffic preemption device would not be considered negligence per se, and asked whether there have been any civil cases regarding this issue or whether any state statutes address the civil aspect of it. MR. MICHEL said he did not believe so, adding, "I know, of the states that have enacted bills to this extent, that they haven't gone as far as civil cases; most times they're able to catch them before they cause the accidents and ... therefore they don't need to address it." REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG remarked: It might be worth doing because I could see somebody causing a terrific accident, and actually, not only the accident there, but contributing to the emergency - somebody has a heart attack and the ambulance is in an accident and never saves life, or there's another accident and the fire truck doesn't make it and there's a horrible fire. So they could really contribute to two, different, terrible events. You might want to take a look at that. REPRESENTATIVE GARA opined, however: I don't think there'd be a need to take a look at that. ... I think it'd still be clearly admissible in a civil case, it would clearly be an exacerbating circumstance, [and] probably subject the person to punitive damages - as it should - and once we make it a crime, that would be relevant to the court's analysis as to how sanctionable that conduct is in the civil case. I don't think we need to do any more work on that. Number 1230 CHAIR McGUIRE asked whether there were any objections to the motion to report CSSB 255(FIN) out of committee. There being none, CSSB 255(FIN) was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.