Legislature(1995 - 1996)

05/02/1996 11:30 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  HOUSE BILL NO. 57                                                            
       An Act  relating to  driver's licensing; and  providing                 
       for an effective date.                                                  
  MELINDA  GRUENING, aide  to  Representative Joe  Green, came                 
  before committee.  She explained that the intent of the bill                 
  is to establish a graduated  driver's licencing system.   At                 
  the present time, individuals 18 to 20 years old  constitute                 
  6.2 percent  of all  Alaskan drivers  but  account for  13.9                 
  percent of  the accidents and  28 percent of  fatal crashes.                 
  Among  this  age group,  a large  majority of  the accidents                 
  occur in the early hours of the morning.  Teens are twice as                 
  likely to be involved in fatal crashes as adults.                            
  The intent of  the legislation  is to ease  a young  driver,                 
  under controlled conditions, into the driving environment by                 
  increasing the amount of  behind-the-wheel driving practice,                 
  increasing exposure to progressively more difficult  driving                 
  experiences,   and  requiring  them  to  earn  full  driving                 
  privileges by demonstrating  a safe and responsible  driving                 
  The proposed bill would establish a graduated system whereby                 
  a 14-year old  may apply for a  learner permit.  At  age 16,                 
  providing  a  driver has  held  a  permit for  at  least six                 
  months,  he or  she  could  be  graduated to  a  provisional                 
  license.  The  provisional license would restrict  nighttime                 
  driving between 1:00  a.m. and 5:00 a.m.,  with an exception                 
  for driving to and from work.                                                
  The other difference  between an unrestricted license  and a                 
  provisional license is  that the licensee is only allowed to                 
  accumulate 8 points in a 12-month  period rather than the 12                 
  points allowed for an unrestricted  license.  If the  holder                 
  of a provisional license demonstrates  a safe driving record                 
  in the one-year provisional period, an  unrestricted license                 
  can be awarded.                                                              
  Thirteen  states presently  have laws  that limit  teenagers                 
  from operating motor  vehicles during late evening  or early                 
  morning  hours.   Studies  show that  nighttime restrictions                 
  significantly reduce accidents.                                              
  HB 57  is designed to  allow the Dept.  of Public Safety  to                 
  take  advantage  of  new federal  funding  to  implement the                 
  legislation.    Federal  law   passed  in  1993  established                 
  monetary incentives for  states that implement  programs for                 
  young drivers.   That federal  funding is  reflected in  the                 
  fiscal note.                                                                 
  Ms. Gruening  next attested  to wide  support for  the bill.                 
  She further advised of changes to  the bill as it progressed                 
  through  the  Senate.    The  original bill  covered  novice                 
  drivers 16 through  21.  It  now covers ages 14  through 17.                 
  The House bill was  limited to 6 points.   Senate committees                 
  increased the number to 8.                                                   
  In  response  to  a  question  from Senator  Sharp,  JUANITA                 
  HENSLEY, Chief, Driver Services, Division of Motor Vehicles,                 
  Dept. of  Public Safety, again  came before committee.   She                 
  said there is  presently no  requirement that an  individual                 
  have an instruction  permit between the  ages of 14 and  16.                 
  The  proposed bill  requires  the permit  for  at least  six                 
  months prior to application for a provisional license at 16.                 
  The instruction permit would require the  teen to drive with                 
  a person 25 years or  older.  At 16 the teen could  obtain a                 
  one-year provisional  license with curfew restrictions.   On                 
  the  teen's  17th   birthday,  he  or   she  could  get   an                 
  unrestricted license.                                                        
  Discussion  of curfews  followed  between Mrs.  Hensley  and                 
  Senator  Randy  Phillips.   Mrs.  Hensley stressed  that the                 
  intent is not to restrict young people but to save lives and                 
  provide  teenagers  some  behind-the-wheel  training.    She                 
  further  commented  on  the   lack  of  driving   experience                 
  associated with the  prom night  accident on the  Kenai.   A                 
  national survey indicates 74 percent of the parents surveyed                 
  support a curfew.                                                            
  Mrs. Hensley  noted that,  in  Alaska, the  average cost  of                 
  hospitalization   for  a   crash   involving  teenagers   is                 
  $18,000.00.  That does not include  doctor fees and the cost                 
  of rehabilitation.                                                           
  Co-chairman Frank referenced a note from Co-chairman Halford                 
  indicating  interest in effecting a  change in the age (from                 
  25  to  19) of  the driver  that  must accompany  a teenager                 
  utilizing an instructional  permit.  Mrs. Hensley  said that                 
  21 is the  limit under the  federal incentive program.   She                 
  further attested to the fact that Alaska applied for and was                 
  awarded a $77.0  grant.  The  proposed bill would allow  the                 
  state to receive the funds to  implement a graduated license                 
  program.  The model program for a graduated license provides                 
  a range of 21 to 25.  Representative Green selected 25 since                 
  that  is  the age  at  which  insurance breaks  occur.   Co-                 
  chairman Frank expressed  a preference for 22  since that is                 
  the age  at which  most individuals  graduate from  college.                 
  Senator Randy Phillips MOVED to change  the age set forth on                 
  Page 2,  line 2, from  25 to 22.   No objection  having been                 
  raised, the Amendment was ADOPTED.                                           
  Brief  discussion  followed  regarding  application  of  the                 
  foregoing amendment to  SCSHB 57 (Jud)  or a draft SCSHB  57                 
  (9-LS0269\K, Ford,  4/26/96).   Senator  Rieger  voiced  his                 
  understanding   that  the   draft   removes  the   nighttime                 
  restrictions.  Senator Sharp expressed  a reluctance to make                 
  that change.   Mrs.  Hensley voiced  department support  for                 
  SCSHB 57 (Jud),  noting that  nighttime provisions (Page  2,                 
  lines 19 through  27) would allow  young people to drive  at                 
  night when going to and from employment.  REPRESENTATIVE JOE                 
  GREEN  reiterated  that  teenagers  have  the  most  driving                 
  accidents between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00  a.m.  Those four hours                 
  are the wrong time to be out driving.                                        
  Co-chairman  Frank  advised of  his  understanding that  Co-                 
  chairman Halford preferred removal of the curfew restriction                 
  per the draft committee  substitute.  He then directed  that                 
  the bill be held pending comments from the Co-chairman.                      

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