Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/29/2004 02:46 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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.                                                                                           

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