Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 17

03/19/2009 01:00 PM House TRANSPORTATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 132(TRA) Out of Committee
Moved Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved HCS CSSB 72(TRA) Out of Committee
SB 72-CHILD SAFETY SEATS & SEAT BELTS                                                                                         
1:14:00 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WILSON announced that the first order of business would be                                                                
SENATE  BILL NO.  72, "An  Act relating  to use  of child  safety                                                               
seats and seat belts."                                                                                                          
1:14:27 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HOLLIS  FRENCH, Alaska State Legislature,  stated that SB
72 was previously  heard by the committee.  He  offered to answer                                                               
any questions about the bill.                                                                                                   
1:15:01 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ  related her understanding that  SB 72 would                                                               
change  the positioning  of  the seat  to face  the  rear of  the                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH answered no.  He  explained the object of the bill                                                               
is to fill  the gap in Alaska's statutes since  the state is "not                                                               
in  line" with  FHWA  regulations.   He  stated  that the  Alaska                                                               
statutes do  not address  children who  outgrow the  child safety                                                               
car  seat, but  are  not old  enough  to use  the  seatbelt.   He                                                               
related that  the interim device  is not currently  covered under                                                               
Alaska law,  but is the "booster  seat" that lifts the  child off                                                               
the seat and places the child's shoulder strap where it belongs.                                                                
1:16:12 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  MUNOZ  stated  that  the  language  reads  "rear-                                                               
facing"  and  she  inquired  as  to  whether  that  is  currently                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH referred  to page 1 line 8 to  10, and stated that                                                               
rear-facing is not  new, but makes explicit what  is currently in                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked for  clarification whether current law                                                               
calls  for front-facing  or rear-facing  seats.   He offered  her                                                               
belief  that  most  child  seats are  front-facing  seats.    She                                                               
expressed concern and related that  parents check in the rearview                                                               
mirror and can see the child is okay.                                                                                           
SENATOR FRENCH said  he would defer to the experts.   He recalled                                                               
using rear-facing seats  for the first six months  of the child's                                                               
1:17:36 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN  asked where the  idea for the  bill came                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH  indicated that a constituent  and person involved                                                               
in the topic for the state brought the matter to his attention.                                                                 
1:18:27 PM                                                                                                                    
CINDY CASHEN, Alaska Highway Safety  Office (AHSO), Department of                                                               
Transportation  & Public  Facilities  (DOT&PF),  stated that  her                                                               
office  is  responsible  for taking  the  federal  transportation                                                               
funds and  applying them to data-driven,  effective programs that                                                               
encourage  safe  driving behavior.    She  stated that  the  AHSO                                                               
currently  receives $159,000  per year  for occupant  protection.                                                               
However, it  is insufficient  due to  the size  of the  state and                                                               
number of  communities throughout  the state.   She  related that                                                               
the  National  Highway   Traffic  Safety  Administration  (NHTSA)                                                               
provides state funding  as the federal arm of DOT&PF.   The NHTSA                                                               
supports enactment  of stronger child passenger  safety laws that                                                               
cover  every child,  in every  seating,  in every  vehicle.   She                                                               
pointed out that Alaska's current  law requires the proper use of                                                               
safety devices for children under the  age of 16, but it does not                                                               
include which  safety device  must be used  based on  the child's                                                               
age, height, and weight.                                                                                                        
MS. CASHEN provided the reason  for placing newborn babies facing                                                               
backward in  vehicles is that position  has been found to  be the                                                               
safest  for their  skeletal structure  during vehicular  crashes.                                                               
She  explained  the  U.S. Department  of  Transportation's  chief                                                               
counsel has determined  that Alaska would be  eligible to receive                                                               
new federal  funds with the  passage of SB  72.  She  stated that                                                               
the  DOT&PF would  apply for  an estimated  $194,000 in  the next                                                               
federal fiscal year.   She stressed that up to  50 percent of the                                                               
funds would be  disbursed to programs to  purchase and distribute                                                               
child safety seats and restraints  to low-income families.  Other                                                               
funding could be used for  enforcement and education.  She opined                                                               
that  the  DOT&PF provides  informative  and  easy to  understand                                                               
brochures.   She pointed out that  the law is difficult  for some                                                               
to  read  and  there  have   been  tragedies  involving  children                                                               
involved in accidents  due to parents mistakenly  using the wrong                                                               
safety restraint  device.  She opined  that SB 72 would  make the                                                               
information  easier to  understand and  Alaska would  be eligible                                                               
for federal funds.                                                                                                              
1:21:37 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. CASHEN,  in response to Representative  Johansen, stated that                                                               
this funding  has been available  to states since the  passage of                                                               
the Transportation Equity  Act:  a Legacy  for Users (SAFTEA-LU).                                                               
She explained that  she provided the sponsor  with information on                                                               
available  funding.    In   further  response  to  Representative                                                               
Johansen,  Ms.   Cashen  explained  the  agency   tracks  federal                                                               
legislation and supports bills that  promote highway safety.  She                                                               
explained   that  a   similar  bill   did  not   pass  the   U.S.                                                               
Transportation committee last year.                                                                                             
1:24:21 PM                                                                                                                    
LEE PARHAM,  State EMS Training  Coordinator, Division  of Public                                                               
Health,  Department of  Health and  Social Services,  stated that                                                               
the Department of  Health and Social Services  (DHSS) supports SB
72.   This bill would amend  AS 28.05.095(b) to set  the specific                                                               
standards for the use of  child passenger restraint.  She related                                                               
that  motor vehicle  related injuries  are the  leading cause  of                                                               
death in the U.S. of children between  the ages of 2 and 14 years                                                               
of age and  is also one of the leading  causes of hospitalization                                                               
and mortality for infants and children  from birth to 14 years of                                                               
age.  In 2006, seven children  were severely injured in Alaska in                                                               
motor vehicle crashes.   According to the  Alaska Trauma Registry                                                               
(ATR) between 2002 and 2006,  63 children were injured in Alaska.                                                               
She reported children restrained in  booster seats are 59 percent                                                               
less likely to be injured  in crashes than children restrained by                                                               
lap  belt  only.     Nationally,  voluntary  seatbelt  inspection                                                               
stations report that 80 to  85 percent of children are improperly                                                               
restrained and  one-third children  under the age  of 14  use the                                                               
wrong type of  restraint.  According to the ATR,  greater than 85                                                               
percent of  the children hospitalized were  improperly restrained                                                               
using  a  lap  belt  or   shoulder  harness  only,  or  were  not                                                               
restrained at  all.  She  opined current statute  that references                                                               
child safety device is confusing  about the specific standards of                                                               
age  and  weight-based restraints.    This  bill is  designed  to                                                               
eliminate confusion  about which  restraints are  appropriate for                                                               
each age,  weight, and level.   The bill would clarify  the types                                                               
of  passenger restraint  required by  various ages  and sizes  to                                                               
prevent and  minimize vehicular injuries.   Currently,  43 states                                                               
have  passed booster  seat legislation  qualifying them  for U.S.                                                               
Department of Transportation and Highway Safety grants.                                                                         
1:27:22 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  WILSON related  her own  observation of  noticing a  small                                                               
child  riding in  the front  seat of  a vehicle  and not  using a                                                               
booster seat.   She corrected earlier testimony  given by stating                                                               
that  last legislature  a similar  bill died  in the  House Rules                                                               
Committee and not the House Transportation Committee.                                                                           
1:29:11 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR   FRENCH,  in   response   to  Representative   Johansen,                                                               
indicated that last  year the fiscal note was  positive, and this                                                               
year the fiscal note is a zero fiscal note.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN  related his  understanding that  half of                                                               
the  potential  $200,000   in  grant  funs  would   be  used  for                                                               
purchasing booster  seats and car  seats for low  income families                                                               
and the remainder for educational  purposes.  He inquired whether                                                               
more  funds   would  be  used   for  purchasing  seats   and  for                                                               
clarification  of the  disbursement of  grant funds  if the  bill                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH  answered that  he would leave  it to  the program                                                               
managers.  He related that a  50 - 50 split between purchases and                                                               
education sounds  about right.  He  said the purpose of  the bill                                                               
is not to penalize parents for  not having car seats, but to have                                                               
children  use  them  to  prevent injuries.    He  reiterated  his                                                               
comfort with the DOT&PF's decisions  on distribution of potential                                                               
grant funds.                                                                                                                    
1:30:17 PM                                                                                                                    
MARY  SIROKY, Legislative  Liaison, Office  of the  Commissioner,                                                               
Department  of  Transportation   &  Public  Facilities  (DOT&PF),                                                               
stated  that the  DOT&PF  fiscal  note (FN)  is  not  yet in  the                                                               
packet.  She  explained the FN is indeterminate,  which speaks to                                                               
fact that  the DOT&PF  should receive  $194,000 for  the program.                                                               
However, since  the amount  of the  potential federal  funding is                                                               
unknown, the FN is considered indeterminate.                                                                                    
1:31:09 PM                                                                                                                    
JOHN COOK,  speaking on behalf  of the AADA, offered  support for                                                               
SB 72.   He recalled a similar bill passed  the Senate last year,                                                               
but  did not  pass  the legislature.   He  stated  that the  AADA                                                               
supports the  bill for a  variety of  reasons.  He  explained the                                                               
current law was  written in 1985.  He recalled  in 1985, vehicles                                                               
did not have  the same safety features as today.   He offered his                                                               
belief that  his own  vehicle in 1985  had a lap  belt but  not a                                                               
harness while his  current vehicle is the same  brand of vehicle,                                                               
just 24  years newer and it  is equipped with front  and side air                                                               
bags, air curtains, crumple zones,  and other safety systems that                                                               
did not  exist when the current  law was written.   He emphasized                                                               
that  safety seats  need to  be  appropriate for  the height  and                                                               
weight  of the  child since  safety  devices like  air bags  have                                                               
explosive force  and can  do serious  bodily injury  to children.                                                               
He related that  at his dealership he has  observed booster seats                                                               
incorrectly installed or children in the  wrong type of seat.  He                                                               
offered his  belief that this  law will provide  clarification to                                                               
parents, families, and law enforcement  on the appropriate safety                                                               
seat.   He stressed the  importance to  "get the children  in the                                                               
right kind  of seat  and have  a safe  driving environment."   He                                                               
opined that the  current law gives parents the  option of putting                                                               
a  four-year-old in  a seatbelt  and not  one manufacturer  would                                                               
support that  an average  four-year-old belongs  in a  seat belt.                                                               
He related  his understanding that  the federal highway  bill has                                                               
not yet  been authorized so these  funds may not be  available in                                                               
2010.   However,  the federal  funds are  currently available  to                                                               
help  educate parents  and provide  booster seats  for low-income                                                               
families, he stated.  He urged  members to support SB 72 and pass                                                               
it out of committee today.                                                                                                      
1:35:13 PM                                                                                                                    
GORDON  GLASE, Anchorage  Trails  &  Greenways Coalition  (ATGC),                                                               
speaking on behalf  of the ATGC, informed members  that all child                                                               
restraints built in the U.S.  recognize being rear facing for the                                                               
first year  or until the  child weighs  20 pounds.   He mentioned                                                               
that is the same recommendation  of all automobile manufacturers.                                                               
He stated that this bill is set  up to make it easier for parents                                                               
and law enforcement to understand the  law so no child is injured                                                               
due  to the  parent not  knowing which  way the  child should  be                                                               
facing or which restraint to use.                                                                                               
1:36:02 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  WILSON, after  first  determining no  one  wished else  to                                                               
testify, closed public testimony on SB 72.                                                                                      
1:36:12 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG made  a  motion to  adopt Amendment  1,                                                               
labeled 26-LS0376\E.1, Luckhaupt, 3/16/09, which read:                                                                          
     Page 1, following line 2:                                                                                                  
     Insert a new bill section to read:                                                                                         
        "* Section 1. AS 19.10.095 is amended to read:                                                                      
          Sec. 19.10.095. Signs promoting the use of safety                                                                   
     belts  and child  safety  devices.  The department  may                                                                
     erect and maintain signs encouraging  the use of safety                                                                    
     belts and child  safety devices at the site  of a motor                                                                
     vehicle  accident  where  a fatality  occurred  as  the                                                                    
     result of  a person's failing  to use a safety  belt or                                                                
     child safety  device. This section  does not  limit the                                                                
     authority of the department to  erect or maintain signs                                                                    
     to  protect the  public safety  and welfare  of persons                                                                    
     using the highways of the state."                                                                                          
     Page 1, line 3:                                                                                                            
          Delete "Section 1"                                                                                                  
          Insert "Sec. 2"                                                                                                     
1:36:53 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WILSON objected for purpose of discussion.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  explained that Amendment 1  would allow                                                               
the  DOT&PF  to erect  signs  at  the  site  of a  motor  vehicle                                                               
accident  in  which  a  fatality occurred.    He  explained  that                                                               
currently  a sign  can be  erected if  a person  was not  using a                                                               
safety belt, and this would  expand the provision to child safety                                                               
devices.   He said  he was  not aware of  any objection  from the                                                               
bill sponsor or the DOT&PF.                                                                                                     
1:38:17 PM                                                                                                                    
MARK NEIDHOLD,  P.E., Chief,  Design and  Construction Standards,                                                               
Division  of  Design  and  Engineering  Services,  Department  of                                                               
Transportation  & Public  Facilities (DOT&PF),  explained he  has                                                               
reviewed  Amendment  1 and  stated  that  the department  has  no                                                               
1:38:48 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN asked whether  any costs will be absorbed                                                               
by the DOT&PF.  He related  his understanding that under the bill                                                               
the DOT&PF  would encourage  use of  devices, which  would likely                                                               
require printing brochures.                                                                                                     
MR. NEIDHOLD  related that the  DOT&PF offers a zero  fiscal note                                                               
as any  cost will  be absorbed  under the  existing program.   He                                                               
explained that  the DOT&PF  has a memorial  sign program  and the                                                               
DOT&PF  bears the  cost of  signs  the public  requests based  on                                                               
criteria set by regulation based on  the type of accident and the                                                               
conditions  that prevailed.    Signs range  from  one that  state                                                               
"Please  Buckle-Up",  "Please  Drive  Safely",  and  "PleaseDon't                                                               
Drink and Drive"  types of signs.  While this  bill would require                                                               
a  new sign,  the  DOT&PF has  an ongoing  cost  that is  already                                                               
covered.   He stated  the DOT&PF  would presume  this is  part of                                                               
that existing program  in terms of distribution.   He pointed out                                                               
that the DOT&PF does not anticipate  an increase in the number of                                                               
overall signs, just a change in the type of sign.                                                                               
1:40:48 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  MUNOZ emphasized  the  importance of  sensitivity                                                               
with respect to the message that  would be placed on the proposed                                                               
sign.   She opined  that a  family lives  with the  child's death                                                               
forever and a sign might  constantly remind parents of their loss                                                               
and could potentially unwittingly contribute to guilty feelings.                                                                
MR.  NEIDHOLD  related  the current  application  process  for  a                                                               
memorial   sign  assumes   that   the  family   would  make   the                                                               
application.  He  surmised someone outside the  family could make                                                               
an  application.   He offered  to review  current regulations  to                                                               
assure  that someone  else could  not make  the application.   He                                                               
offered his  belief that the  DOT&PF is very concerned  about the                                                               
perception the public  has about signs.  He  further offered that                                                               
the current sign for a fatality,  not caused by drunk driver, but                                                               
due to the person not wearing  a safety belt reads "Please Buckle                                                               
Up" with  a plague under the  sign which reads "In  memory of" or                                                               
"Sponsored by"  followed by  the person's name.   He  related his                                                               
understanding  that  the  specific  language  has  not  yet  been                                                               
developed final language  for a memorial sign for  a child safety                                                               
seat.   However,  he  said it  would likely  be  similar to  that                                                               
language, be  unmistakable, and not  cause distraction  for other                                                               
drivers.   He  surmised that  it would  be similar  and brief  in                                                               
1:43:33 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN  agreed that is  an excellent point.   He                                                               
asked to  see the language.   He  expressed concern for  a family                                                               
and  asserted the  family's  right  to decide  whether  or not  a                                                               
memorial sign is placed.                                                                                                        
MR. NEIDHOLD  offered to  provide the  language to  the committee                                                               
when it is developed.                                                                                                           
CHAIR  WILSON withdrew  her objection.   There  being no  further                                                               
objection, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                                             
1:44:48 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG moved  to report SB 72,  as amended, out                                                               
of   committee   with    individual   recommendations   and   the                                                               
accompanying fiscal note.                                                                                                       
There being no objection, HCS  CSSB 72(TRA) was reported from the                                                               
House Transportation Standing Committee.                                                                                        

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 132 Backup.pdf HTRA 3/19/2009 1:00:00 PM
HB 132
CSHB132 Bill.pdf HTRA 3/19/2009 1:00:00 PM
HB 132
HB132-DOT-AS-PD-03-13-09.pdf HTRA 3/19/2009 1:00:00 PM
HB 132
SB 111 Backup.pdf HTRA 3/19/2009 1:00:00 PM
SB 111
SB 111 Fiscal Note.pdf HTRA 3/19/2009 1:00:00 PM
SB 111
SB 111 Sponsor Statement.pdf HTRA 3/19/2009 1:00:00 PM
SB 111
HB 132 Sectional.pdf HTRA 3/19/2009 1:00:00 PM
HB 132
HB 132 Sponsor Statement.pdf HTRA 3/19/2009 1:00:00 PM
HB 132
Sectional for CSHB132.pdf HTRA 3/19/2009 1:00:00 PM
HB 132