Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/25/2003 09:06 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 53 "An Act relating to disposition of a traffic offense involving the death of a person; providing for the revocation of driving privileges by a court for a driver convicted of a violation of traffic laws in connection with a fatal motor vehicle or commercial motor vehicle accident; amending Rules 43 and 43.1, Alaska Rules of Administration; and providing for an effective date." This was the first hearing for this bill in the Senate Finance Committee. Co-chair Wilken informed the Committee that this bill would allow the revocation of a person's driving license in the event that their traffic violation results in a death. SENATOR SCOTT OGAN, the sponsor of the bill, explained that current State statute does not provide provisions to address a traffic violation that results in a death. He shared that he personally knows families who have lost a relative or suffered a disability as the result of another driver running a red light, and he communicated that the at-fault driver only received a $50 fine for a traffic violation. He stated that unless a driver is, for instance, intoxicated, there is no State statute that holds a driver who drives too fast for conditions or runs a red light responsible for their actions. He stated that the legal defense for these people "is that they really didn't intend to kill someone." He stated that similar legislation was presented to the Legislature the previous session, "but was held up in the closing minutes of the session." Senator Taylor asked how this legislation would address a situation whereby a vehicle slides off a road due to icy road conditions and results in a family member in the car being killed. He noted that the driver's negligence, according to this Legislation, contributed to a fatality. He asked whether the word "may" in the Legislation would allow the court discretion in addressing this scenario. Senator Ogan responded that judges would have sufficient authority to appropriately address the situation and that the court would render an appropriate response. He stated that this "is exactly the reason" the legislation includes the word "may." However, he asserted, this legislation would also allow a judge to appropriately address a situation whereby the action of the driver, or repeated infractions of a driver, causes personal damage to others. Senator Bunde expressed understanding of the frustration that might be caused by current statutes limitations; however, he asked whether revoking a driver's license would have the desired result; as, he furthered, some people would continue to drive or might otherwise not be "inconvenienced." Senator Ogan suspected that there are some people who "would thumb their nose" at the loss of their driver's license. However, he stressed that this legislation would be a deterrent to those people who violate traffic laws by driving too fast or who run red lights as opposed to those people who routinely drive recklessly or drive while intoxicated. LIEUTENANT MATT LEVEQUE, Alaska State Troopers, Department of Public Safety, testified via teleconference from an offnet site and agreed that some people would continue to drive without a driver's license; however, some would respect the law and not drive. In response to Senator Bunde's comment about further inconveniencing offenders by, for instance, prohibiting them from airline travel because they would not have a driver's license to present as required at time of airline check-in, Lieutenant Leveque informed that individuals who lose their driver's license would remain eligible to apply for a state identification card. Therefore, he continued the State would not deny individuals the ability to travel. Senator Olson asked whether Lieutenant Leveque supports the bill. Lieutenant Leveque responded that the Department supports the bill. Senator Taylor moved to report the bill from Committee with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal note. Without objection, HB 53 was REPORTED from Committee with previous fiscal notes #1 and #2 from the Department of Administration and previous fiscal note #3 from the Department of Law.