Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/29/2004 02:46 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 423-TAXICAB DRIVER LIABILITY CHAIR CON BUNDE announced HB 423 to be up for consideration. MR. JIM SHINE, staff to Representative Tom Anderson, said HB 423 will allow taxicab operators to transport a motor vehicle owned by an intoxicated person to his home or another directed residential location while another cab driver will take the intoxicated person to the same residential location. Absent gross negligence or reckless or intentional misconduct, a person engaged in this activity would not be civilly liable for damages. There are times when Alaskans will find themselves in an end of the evening dilemma when they are over the .08 blood alcohol limit and shouldn't drive, but are worried and reluctant to leave their car unattended overnight for several reasons - fear of vandalism or having it towed or stolen. This bill will allow the intoxicated person and his or her vehicle to get home safely without the taxicab operator who drives the person's vehicle fearing liability. This bill promotes responsible behavior and encourages people to do the right thing and not drive while intoxicated. In 2002, there were 87 traffic deaths in Alaska of which 35 were alcohol related. That created 40 percent of the traffic deaths. In 2001, 53 percent of auto deaths were alcohol related. In order for this program to be successful, establishments would implement the following strategies and policies: They'll be placing signs near payphones, direct lines to cab companies in other conspicuous areas in establishments such as restrooms and near exits. CHAIR BUNDE asked who would pay for that. MR. SHINE replied that the bar owners would do that. He continued: Also they'll be training the staff in these establishments on the availability of the program, how to inform patrons and implement the process, making public service announcements at the end of the evening as the bar is nearing closing. The bars will be paying a portion of the cab fare agreed upon by the establishment and the program officials. They will track the program usage to assess the effectiveness to promote and/or improve the program. This service will be free to consumers as the bar and corporate sponsors will be splitting the cost of $40 for each cab trip in the downtown Anchorage bowl area. CHAIR BUNDE asked if the person calls the cab himself does he pay the fare. MR. SHINE replied no and said that the Anchorage Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant & Retailers Association (CHARR) has been soliciting corporate sponsors to help pay for getting drunk drivers off the road and has talked with bar owners who have consented to being involved in this program and have agreed to splitting the cost of it with the corporate sponsors. He said that letters from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association (CHARR) in support of HB 423 are in the committee's packets and noted that it passed the House unanimously by a vote of 38 - 0. MR. JOHN PATTEE, owner, Gaslight Lounge and Avenue Bar, said he is also a board member of Anchorage CHARR, the Downtown Community Council and the Anchorage Downtown Partnership. Several years ago, he and Rod Flager, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, tried to identify why people may drink and drive. They found that some people want to take their cars home because they are expensive and might be vandalized or stolen if they are left downtown. A few years ago, insurance companies estimated it would cost $1,000 per cab for providing this type of coverage, which was prohibitive. People don't want to leave their cars on the streets for many reasons. If they are legitimate reasons, they should be addressed. This program, which is called Off The Road, is a good start at addressing the problem and could be refined as experience dictates. CHAIR BUNDE said he thought this was an issue worthy of being moved forward. SENATOR BETTYE DAVIS moved to pass HB 423 from committee. Senators Hollis French, Bettye Davis and Chair Con Bunde voted yea; and HB 423 moved from committee.