Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 17

02/16/2010 01:00 PM TRANSPORTATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
             HB 257-BAN CELL PHONE USE WHEN DRIVING                                                                         
2:22:56 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR P. WILSON announced  that the next order of business  would                                                               
be  HOUSE BILL  NO. 257, "An Act relating to prohibiting the  use                                                               
of  cellular  telephones  when  driving  a  motor  vehicle;   and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
2:23:18 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  MIKE  DOOGAN, Alaska  State  Legislature,  stated                                                               
that  HB 257  is an  attempt  to prohibit  cell phone  use  while                                                               
driving, except for  emergency phone calls.  He paraphrased  from                                                               
his   sponsor  statement,   which  read   [original   punctuation                                                               
     Distracted  drivers cause  accidents.   Current  Alaska                                                                    
     law prohibits the  use of certain devices with  screens                                                                    
     (such  as  televisions)  while  driving,  in  order  to                                                                    
     prevent drivers from  taking their focus off the  road.                                                                    
     This prohibition  includes the use  of cell phones  for                                                                    
     sending text  messages, but  excludes the  use of  cell                                                                    
     phones for  "verbal communication or displaying  caller                                                                    
     identification  information".   HB 257  would  prohibit                                                                    
     any use  of a  cell phone  while driving-including  the                                                                    
     use  of  a  phone  with  a  hands-free  device-with  an                                                                    
     exception only for  emergency calls.  Violations  would                                                                    
     be punishable by fines of up to $300.                                                                                      
     As cell phones  have become more widely available,  the                                                                    
     number  of  drivers  distracted  by  cell   phones  has                                                                    
     increased-putting  more and  more  Alaskans  in  harm's                                                                    
     way.   The use of  a cell phone  while driving slows  a                                                                    
     driver's  reaction time  by dividing  their  attention.                                                                    
     One study showed that using a cell phone  while driving                                                                    
     is as dangerous as driving drunk.  This held  true even                                                                    
     for drivers  using hands-free devices.   Another  study                                                                    
     showed that drivers are  four times more likely to  get                                                                    
     in  an accident  if they  talk on  a cell  phone  while                                                                    
     Distracted drivers put  themselves and everyone  around                                                                    
     them at risk.   By prohibiting  the use of cell  phones                                                                    
     while driving,  HB 257 will  make Alaska's roads  safer                                                                    
     for  drivers,  pedestrians,  and  cyclists,  preventing                                                                    
     needless accidents caused by distracted drivers.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  DOOGAN concluded  by stating  that using  a  cell                                                               
phone is not  a liberty.  There is  not any voter right to  drive                                                               
while distracted.  Distracted drivers should be  held accountable                                                               
for  their  driving.   While  there  are  many  other  causes  of                                                               
distraction, the most  common cause of distraction while  driving                                                               
is cell phone use.  He stated that HB 257 will  help keep drivers                                                               
attention on the road.                                                                                                          
2:26:49 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR P.  WILSON commented  that her  mother was  involved in  an                                                               
accident with someone who was talking on cell phone.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN asked  whether the term "cellular  phone"                                                               
would capture  all of the devices,  suggesting perhaps using  the                                                               
term "mobile phone."                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE DOOGAN responded  that cellular phone is the  most                                                               
commonly used  phone.  He  did not  recall seeing anyone  driving                                                               
while using a  satellite phone.  Any  phone system with the  same                                                               
characteristics, that can be dialed up, and drivers will talk  as                                                               
they were  driving would  create the same  kinds of  liabilities.                                                               
He  offered  his  willingness to  expand  the  definition  if  so                                                               
2:28:52 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN recalled  the sponsor was not  interested                                                               
in allowing a hands-free exemption.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE DOOGAN  answered the  studies do  not support  the                                                               
theory that  hands-free makes  the driver any  more attentive  or                                                               
likely to be good driver.  He related that the dysfunction is  in                                                               
the brain,  which is processed  in a  different manner than  when                                                               
driving and conducting a conversation with a passenger.                                                                         
CHAIR  P. WILSON  asked for  difference  between hands  free  and                                                               
simply holding a conversation.                                                                                                  
2:30:17 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DOOGAN  understood from  studies that  people  are                                                               
less  attentive when  talking on  a cell  phone than  talking  to                                                               
person sitting next to them.   He recalled the main fact that  is                                                               
people are more used  to talking in short verse and they are  not                                                               
concentrating in the same  way as when they are conversing  using                                                               
a cell phone.                                                                                                                   
2:31:26 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE T.  WILSON related she has  observed all kinds  of                                                               
distractions while  people are  driving.   She  pointed out  that                                                               
children can be  distracting as attempting to  eat or read  while                                                               
driving.    She  asked  whether  telling  people  to  "drive"  is                                                               
something that can actually be legislated.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  DOOGAN recalled  observing  a person  driving  in                                                               
Anchorage and  noticed a  driver received  a phone  call and  her                                                               
speed changed  from 45  to 10  miles per hour.   He  had to  take                                                               
measures to  avoid a  crash.   Some distractions  are worse  than                                                               
others and interacting with children is different than trying  to                                                               
get your hands on cell phone to answer it, he stated.                                                                           
2:33:27 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON asked whether pulling over to stop on  a                                                               
narrow  road  would  create another  hazard  at  the  expense  of                                                               
stopping cell phone use.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE DOOGAN related that it depends on the road.   Some                                                               
roads a person should not try to answer the phone.  There  is not                                                               
any constitutional right for  people to answer their cell  phone.                                                               
He hoped  people would  not answer their  phone if  it created  a                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE T. WILSON  related if that was  the case the  bill                                                               
would not be necessary.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE DOOGAN agreed.                                                                                                   
2:34:55 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN asked  how many other  states have a  ban                                                               
on cell phones.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE DOOGAN answered  a number of  states have bans  on                                                               
cell  phones, relating  that  the legal  landscape  is  changing,                                                               
although he was unsure  how many states currently have some  form                                                               
of cell  phone ban.   He recalled that  California and Oregon  do                                                               
ban cell phones, but he did not have a specific number.                                                                         
2:35:52 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN asked  whether a hands free device  could                                                               
be used in California.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE DOOGAN did not  know of any states that ban  hands                                                               
free devices.   In response to Chair  P. Wilson, he restated  his                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN asked whether a person stopped at a  stop                                                               
light could answer their phone.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE DOOGAN said no.  He related that if the driver  is                                                               
engaged in  the types of  activities which are  a normal part  of                                                               
driving, which  also includes  being alert  at a  stop light  are                                                               
required.  Thus, using a cell phone at a stop light would  not be                                                               
allowed, he stated.                                                                                                             
2:37:38 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  pointed out that  it would not  include                                                               
operating a radio.                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE DOOGAN  thinks that  is correct,  but related  his                                                               
question is probably more of a drafting question.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG stated  that  the  distinction  between                                                               
hands-free and  cell phone  is  that it  can be  difficult for  a                                                               
driver to turn corners with  one hand on the wheel.  Even if  you                                                               
are talking on the phone with a headset this difference may  well                                                               
be the  reason for some states  allowing hands-free phones to  be                                                               
used while driving vehicles.                                                                                                    
2:39:36 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DOOGAN, in  response to Representative T.  Wilson,                                                               
explained that a person can pull over and stop to answer a  phone                                                               
and no  penalty applies unless a  person is violating the  normal                                                               
actions of driving vehicle.                                                                                                     
2:40:31 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  suggested that  if a  car  is parked  a                                                               
person is  not  considered driving.   He  expressed concern  that                                                               
this bill would  affect people driving commercial vehicles  along                                                               
the  Dalton Highway,  who rely  on  cell phones,  especially  the                                                               
"pusher  car" since  their  work  requires that  they  coordinate                                                               
activities.  He offered his belief that some exception should  be                                                               
added for the truckers.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE DOOGAN recognized the concern but offered that  he                                                               
likes the bill  just fine in its current  form.  He viewed it  as                                                               
committee's prerogative to make changes and related that he  does                                                               
not  expect  this   bill  to  go  through  the  process   without                                                               
2:42:45 PM                                                                                                                    
CINDY  CASHEN,  Administrator,  Highway  Safety  Office   (AHSO),                                                               
Division of Program  Development, Department of Transportation  &                                                               
Public  Facilities (DOT&PF), explained  that  the Alaska  Highway                                                               
Safety Office (AHSO)  receives federal transportation dollars  to                                                               
administer data-driven driver behavior programs which  encourages                                                               
safe  driving  behavior.     She  commented  that  the  AHSO   is                                                               
interested in  driver distraction  data.   She  read, as  follows                                                               
[original punctuation provided]:                                                                                                
     The AHSO  receives  its federal  funding from  National                                                                    
     Highway Traffic  Safety Administration (NHTSA).   Their                                                                    
     policy is that it is the primary responsibility of  the                                                                    
     driver to operate motor vehicle safely.                                                                                    
     The task of driving requires full attention and  focus.                                                                    
     Cell phone  use can  distract drivers  from this  task,                                                                    
     risking harm to themselves and others.   Therefore, the                                                                    
     safest course  of action  is  to refrain  from using  a                                                                    
     cell phone while driving.                                                                                                  
     NHTSA research  shows that driving  while using a  cell                                                                    
     phone  can pose  a  serious cognitive  distraction  and                                                                    
     degrade driver performance.                                                                                              
     NHTSA  estimates  that  driver  distraction  from   all                                                                  
     sources  contributes  to  25  percent  of  all  police-                                                                  
     reported traffic crashes.   Ten years  ago only 15%  of                                                                  
     the reported traffic crashes were attributed to  driver                                                                  
MS. CASHEN  added that  driver distraction  can cover  everything                                                             
from  turning on  the radio  to using  a cell  phone.   She  read                                                             
[original punctuation provided]:                                                                                              
     The most common  distraction for drivers is the use  of                                                                  
     cell phones.                                                                                                               
     A  ban on  hand-held  devices  has been  enacted  in  8                                                                  
     1. California                                                                                                            
     2. Connecticut                                                                                                           
     3. District of Columbia                                                                                                  
     4. New Jersey                                                                                                            
     5. New York                                                                                                                
     In 2006, NHTSA and the Virginia Tech Transportation                                                                        
     Institute released a 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study                                                                    
    which tracked the behavior of the drivers of 100 vehicles                                                                   
     equipped with video and sensor devices for more than one                                                                   
MS.  CASHEN offered that  the  AHSO appreciates all  kinds  of data                                                             
since it  helps quantify the  distraction.  She offered  to provide                                                             
answers to  previous questions  using the  data from  the  "100 car                                                             
study."  In response to Chair  P. Wilson, she answered that she has                                                             
the data comparison between hands-free phones and cell phones.                                                                  
MS. CASHEN continued reading [original punctuation provided]:                                                                   
     The most common distraction for drivers is the use of                                                                      
     cell phones.                                                                                                               
     The available  research indicates  that whether  it  is a                                                                  
     hands-free  or   hand-held  cell  phone,   the  cognitive                                                                  
     distraction is  significant enough to degrade  a driver's                                                                  
     performance.  This can cause a  driver to miss key visual                                                                  
     and audio cues needed to avoid a crash.                                                                                    
MS. CASHEN added that the hand-held calls tend to take up less                                                                  
time than the hands-free calls.  She continued [original                                                                        
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
       The results showed that manual dialing was about as                                                                      
    distracting as grooming/eating, but less distracting than                                                                   
     reading or changing CDs.                                                                                                   
     The number of crashes and near-crashes attributable to                                                                     
    dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with                                                                   
     talking or listening.                                                                                                      
MS. CASHEN,  in response to Chair  P. Wilson, offered to  provide                                                               
the  report.     She  read   statistics,  as  follows   [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
      Alaska Distracted Driving Statistics (Highway Analysis                                                                    
     From 2002-2007 there were 78,162 motor vehicle crashes in                                                                  
     From 2002-2007 there were 335 motor vehicle crashes                                                                        
     involving cell phone use.                                                                                                  
     189 resulted in property damage only, 127 resulted in minor                                                                
     injuries, 19 in major injuries and no fatalities.                                                                          
     From 2002-2007 there were 895 injuries in traffic crashes                                                                  
     involving cell phone use.                                                                                                  
      200 resulted in minor injuries, 20 resulted in major                                                                      
     injuries, and no fatalities.                                                                                               
MS.  CASHEN provided  details on  the  form the  law  enforcement                                                               
uses,  which  includes cell  phone  use.    The  law  enforcement                                                               
officers can only check up to two categories of 26  boxes listed,                                                               
which includes  a box for cell  phone use.   She related that  is                                                               
part of  the reason why data  is lacking.   This is a  relatively                                                               
new type  of unsafe  driving and  distracted driving  definitions                                                               
and collections  vary.  It will  take time, so  the best data  is                                                               
currently  the  date  provided  by  the  NHTSA  study,  since  it                                                               
provides information on  the physiological occurrences with  cell                                                               
phone use.                                                                                                                      
2:50:30 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN asked whether Ms. Cashen would like to                                                                  
see the forms changed to add a specific category for cell phone                                                                 
use so the officer would not have to choose between the 26 other                                                                
MS. CASHEN answered yes.                                                                                                        
2:51:12 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked for the reason that the effective                                                                
date selected is July 1, 2010.                                                                                                  
MS. CASHEN related that the AHSO office did not set the                                                                         
effective date.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  asked whether she  had any  information                                                               
on truckers along the haul road.                                                                                                
MS.  CASHEN explained  that  currently an  exemption  exists  for                                                               
those drivers for  emergency purposes.  She understood  exemption                                                               
is already in place for emergency responders.                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG clarified that  he is interested in  how                                                               
the bill  would affect  commercial vehicle  drivers, truckers  on                                                               
the haul road driving to the North Slope.  One trucker  will pull                                                               
the cargo, while  another will push the  cargo.  He related  that                                                               
the two truckers  are in constant communication with one  another                                                               
but they are not categorized as emergency responders.                                                                           
MS. CASHEN said she did not know.  In response  to Representative                                                               
Gruenberg, she  stated  several studies  involving Federal  Motor                                                               
Carrier  Administration  that   works  with  commercial   vehicle                                                               
enforcement.  She offered to provide a copy to the committee.                                                                   
2:53:43 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked  whether commercial drivers use  hand-                                                               
held or hands-free cell phones.                                                                                                 
MS. CASHEN offered to provide the information.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  MUNOZ asked  for information  on crash  rates  in                                                               
other  states that  allow hands-free  devices  to be  used  while                                                               
MS. CASHEN recalled that eight states have banned  hand-held cell                                                               
phone  use.   In further  response to  Representative Munoz,  she                                                               
recalled a  recent  study provoked  discussions, which  indicated                                                               
perhaps  drivers who  used  hand-held devices  have  switched  to                                                               
hands-free  cell phones.   The  evidence  is not  conclusive  and                                                               
differing opinions  and interpretations  were made  on the  data.                                                               
This study was based on insurance data and not on  fatality data.                                                               
Thus, the  statistics were not specifically  on crashes but  were                                                               
based on distracted-driver  related fatalities.  She pointed  out                                                               
that distracted driving  is not limited to  cell phone use  since                                                               
it  encompasses  all  types  of  distractions.    The  fatalities                                                               
involving distracted driving went down, but she did not know  for                                                               
certain the reductions were  due to restrictions on cell  phones,                                                               
but perhaps they were.                                                                                                          
2:56:37 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ  said she supports the  bill.  However,  she                                                               
does  not want  to create  difficulties for  commercial  drivers.                                                               
She stated  she has heard from  a number of commercial  operators                                                               
that have asked for a hands-free option, which she would like  to                                                               
keep open for consideration.                                                                                                    
2:57:30 PM                                                                                                                    
ROY HOYT, JR., stated that  this bill is a great idea and  should                                                               
be enacted  to eliminate use  of cell phones  while driving.   He                                                               
suggested that  the language  for cell phones  could apply  while                                                               
vehicles are in  motion.  He remarked  that driving in Homer  can                                                               
be  frightening  as  people drive  and  use  their  cell  phones,                                                               
especially  while  rounding  corners.    He  is  surprised   more                                                               
accidents do not occur.   He recalled citizen's band (CB)  radios                                                               
previously  used to  talk  between vehicles.    He also  did  not                                                               
believe hands-free cell phones posed as significant a problem  as                                                               
hand-held cell phones.                                                                                                          
2:59:30 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN remarked that this bill does not ban  the                                                               
use of CB radios.                                                                                                               
CHAIR P. WILSON left public testimony open on HB 257.                                                                           
[HB 257 was held over.]                                                                                                         
3:00:31 PM                                                                                                                    

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 322 winter tires backup.pdf HTRA 2/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 322
HB322 winter tires sponsor stmt.pdf HTRA 2/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB257 cell phone ban sponsor stmt.pdf HTRA 2/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HTRA 3/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 257
HB257 cell phone ban sectional.pdf HTRA 2/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HTRA 3/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 257
hb257 cell phone ban backup.pdf HTRA 2/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HTRA 3/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 257
HB 8 gasline pie purchase sponsor stmt.pdf HTRA 2/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 8
HB8 gasline pipe purchase tariff and revenue.pdf HTRA 2/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 8
HB8 gasline pipe purchase backup.pdf HTRA 2/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 8
HB 322 Presentation.pdf HTRA 2/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 322