Legislature(1995 - 1996)
05/02/1996 11:30 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 record. 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.