Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/27/1996 01:30 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 57 LICENSING REQUIREMENTS FOR DRIVERS MELINDA GRUENING, legislative assistant to Representative Joe Green, explained the intent of the measure is to establish a graduated drivers license system. Currently 16 to 21 year old drivers comprise 6.2 percent of Alaskan drivers but account for 13.9 percent of all accidents and 28 percent of all fatal crashes. A large majority of those accidents happen in the early hours of the morning. HB 57 will ease the novice driver, under controlled conditions, into the driving environment by creating a provisional license. Nighttime driving hours will be restricted between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. with the exception of travelling the most direct route to and from work. A licensee with a provisional license could only accumulate 8 points during a 12 month period. After a one-year period, if the provisional licensee has demonstrated a safe driving record, an unrestricted driver's license would be issued. HB 57 is designed to allow the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to take advantage of new federal funding to implement such legislation. SENATOR GREEN moved to adopt the committee substitute. SENATOR ELLIS objected to the motion and asked Representative Green to speak for the bill. REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN offered to answer questions. SENATOR ELLIS asked about the fiscal impact of the legislation. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN replied that a majority of the costs would be reimbursed by a federal grant. HB 57 will help protect teenagers against themselves, and while their reflexes and ability to drive may be better than an older person, their concentration may be less than someone more mature. This bill will get teenagers through the most critical period and is designed to be a protective measure, not an intrusive one. Number 500 SENATOR ADAMS expressed concern about the point system on page 3 because it decreases the amount of accumulated points from 12 to 8. This topic was debated in the Transportation Committee, and a compromise amount of 10 points was discussed. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN observed the original amount of points in the bill was was raised from 6 to 8 points. He emphasized that a driver's license is a privelege. SENATOR GREEN felt to accumulate 8 to 12 points in one year to require a good deal of irresponsible behavior. JOHN GEORGE, representing the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII), testified in support of the bill. On a personal note, he stated as Assistant Fire Chief of the Auke Bay Fire District, he has responded to many late night automobile accidents. He believes this bill will ensure the safety of teenagers by creating a curfew. Number 458 MARK JOHNSON, Chief of the Emergency Medical Services Section of the Department of Health and Social Services, testified in support of HB 57 as data from hospitals show that teenagers treated for motor vehicle accidents are double the rate of other drivers. The cost for hospitalization of that group averages over $20,000. SENATOR TAYLOR asked if Mr. Johnson had reviewed statistical information from other states that have implemented a similar program. MR. JOHNSON replied he had reviewed information provided by DPS and from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's newsletter. JUANITA HENSLEY, Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles, DPS, testified in support of HB 57 and noted widespread support for the legislation by other national and international groups. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made available incentive grants to Alaska and North Carolina several years ago to help implement and study a graduated license system to see if it does save lives. HB 57 is a step forward in that process. Alaska has already implemented a "use it, lose it" sanction system for driver's licenses. Because driver education is not provided to students, they learn by trial and error. SENATOR ADAMS asked how many points a teen driver would get for two curfew violations. MS. HENSLEY answered each violation receives two points. After accumulating four points, DMV would send a letter to the licensee providing him/her the option of eliminating two points by taking a defensive driving class. SENATOR TAYLOR asked Ms. Hensley to explain the changes made in the proposed committee substitute. MS. HENSLEY stated the original bill disallowed a licensee between the ages of 16 and 17 to get a provisional license until he/she had held an instructional permit for a period of six months. At the age of 18 through 20, a licensee would have to have a provisional license for one year before being granted full driving priveleges. The proposed committee substitute removes the provision for 18 to 20 year olds, and would allow a 15 year old who obtained an instructional permit for six months prior to obtain a provisional driver's license at age 16 after passing a test. SENATOR ELLIS asked if exceptions to driving during the curfew hours were discussed when the bill was heard in the House and who decides what the most direct route to and from work would be. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN answered the House did consider longer curfew hours from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Most of the discussion centered around the fact that teenagers do not need to be out between the hours of 1:00 and 5:00 unless it is for working purposes because there is a rapid escalation of accidents during those hours. Regarding the second question, the police officer would determine the most direct route, and could call the place of employment to verify where the driver was enroute to and from. SENATOR ELLIS asked if an officer would also determine whether the driver was driving from a legitimate activity during curfew hours, such as a school function. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN replied the officer would make that determination, but it could be appealed by the driver. SENATOR ELLIS stated he was trying to clarify whether driving to and from work would be the only legitimate reason to drive during curfew hours. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated if this bill becomes law, the teenager would need to be driven by someone else during curfew hours for any activity other than work. MS. HENSLEY clarified if a teenage driver has a driver over the age of 25 in the car, then the provisional license driver would be able to drive during curfew hours. SENATOR ELLIS questioned why the age of 25 was used. MS. HENSLEY commented the insurance industry uses the age of 25 to determine that a driver is no longer a higher risk. Current law allows a person with an instructional permit to drive in a car with a 19 year old; that would be changed because it is believed a 25 year old is more mature. She noted that age was chosen arbitrarily. SENATOR ELLIS believed young people feel contempt for the laws when they differentiate by age for various activities, and felt that provision in the bill needs more thought. MS. HENLSEY remarked New Zealand and the province of Ontario have successful graduated license programs based on novice driving, rather than age. SENATOR ELLIS removed his objection to the adoption of SCSHB 57(JUD) therefore the motion carried. SENATOR MILLER moved SCSHB 57(JUD) out of committee with individual recommendations. There being no objection, the motion carried.