Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/22/1996 01:36 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 STRA - 2/22/96                                                                
                                                                               
           HB  57 LICENSING REQUIREMENTS FOR DRIVERS                          
                                                                              
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER called the Senate Transportation meeting to order             
 at 1:36 p.m. and introduced  HB 57  as the first order of business            
 before the committee.                                                         
                                                                               
 Number 008                                                                    
                                                                               
 MELINDA GRUENING, Staff to Representative Joe Green, said that                
 HB 57 would establish a graduated driver's license system.                    
 Currently, 16 to 20-year-old drivers constitute 6.2 percent of                
 Alaskan drivers while accounting for 14 percent of all accidents              
 and 28 percent of all fatal crashes.  Among this age group, a large           
 number of accidents occur in the early morning hours.  Ms. Gruening           
 informed the committee that compared to adult drivers, teens are              
 twice as likely to be involved in fatal crashes.  Current licensing           
 procedures allow a young novice driver to take a vision test, pay             
 a fee, drive around the block, and answer 20 questions before                 
 receiving their license.  HB 57 would ease the young novice driver,           
 under controlled conditions, into the driving environment by                  
 increasing the amount of his/her behind-the-wheel practice, by                
 increasing his/her exposure to progressively more difficult driving           
 situations, and by requiring him/her to demonstrate a safe and                
 responsible driving record in order to receive a full license.                
                                                                               
 Under HB 57, a 14-year-old may apply for a learner's permit.                  
 Providing the learner's permit is held for six months, a 16-year-             
 old can receive a provisional license.  The provisional license has           
 restricted nighttime driving hours between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.            
 with the exception for driving between work and home using the most           
 direct route.  If the youth's driving performance has proven to be            
 satisfactory during the one year provisional license, an                      
 unrestricted license can be granted at age 17.  Ms. Gruening                  
 pointed out that under a provisional license, the licensee can only           
 collect six points in a year rather than the 12 points allowed with           
 a regular license.  Currently, 13 other states have similar                   
 legislation with portions of the graduated driver's license                   
 provisions.  Furthermore, studies in these states illustrate that             
 nighttime restrictions have significantly reduced accidents.  HB 57           
 would allow the Department of Public Safety to utilize new federal            
 funding to implement such legislation.  Ms. Gruening informed the             
 committee that the disproportional number of teenage accidents                
 nationwide resulted in the "High Risk Drivers Act of 1993" in which           
 states implementing programs for young drivers would receive                  
 monetary incentives.  The fiscal note reflects this federal                   
 funding.  In conclusion, Ms. Gruening said that Representative                
 Green believes that this legislation would end teenage carnage on             
 the highways as it has in states with similar legislation.                    
                                                                               
 Number 076                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS inquired as to how many states have enacted such                
 legislation.  MELINDA GRUENING said that although 13 states have              
 enacted some form of restrictions, no state has legislation exactly           
 like HB 57.  There are similar laws in New Zealand which have                 
 resulted in a significant decrease in teenage deaths and accidents.           
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS asked how HB 57 would affect the workload of the                
 Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) since the youth would be                   
 required to return to the DMV in order to pay for his/her license             
 after holding a provisional license for a year.  MELINDA GRUENING             
 deferred to Juanita Hensley.                                                  
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS said that changing the number of points an individual           
 is penalized from 12 to 6 creates a problem.  For example, if a               
 young person was out between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.             
 that young person could be penalized with two points.  After three            
 incidents, the young person would be without a driver's license.              
 MELINDA GRUENING agreed with that assessment.  If this was the                
 first time the six points had been reached under the provisional              
 driver's license, the individual would have to wait 30 days before            
 reapplying.                                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 119                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER indicated that he did not see the length of time              
 listed to which Ms. Gruening was referring.                                   
 MELINDA GRUENING said that the DMV gave her this information.                 
 Perhaps, Juanita Hensley could better address this question.  Ms.             
 Gruening said that Ms. Hensley had told her that the first time six           
 points is reached there would be a 30 day waiting period.                     
 Thereafter, if the person had two offenses or rather six points               
 were reached in a two year period, there would be a three month               
 wait before the provisional license could be reinstated.                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS inquired as to why the points penalty was changed as            
 it applies to youth under the bill.  MELINDA GRUENING explained               
 that the purpose was to allow the young person with a provisional             
 license to demonstrate a safe driving record before receiving an              
 unrestricted driver's license.                                                
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS emphasized that he had concerns with the points                 
 section of the bill.  Senator Adams felt that the points penalty              
 should remain at 12 or receive further discussion.                            
                                                                               
 In response to Senator Green, MELINDA GRUENING said that there had            
 not been much discussion regarding the change to a 25 year old to             
 accompany the learning driver.  That age was chosen because the               
 insurance actuarial charts show that those drivers have a safer               
 record.                                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 162                                                                    
                                                                               
 MARK JOHNSON, Chief Community Health & Emergency Medical Services             
 for DHSS, supported the intent of HB 57.  Statistics demonstrate              
 that motor vehicle related injuries are a significant public health           
 problem for the youth in Alaska.  Motor vehicle crashes are the               
 number one cause of hospitalization of Alaska's youth and the                 
 number two cause of death following suicide.  Mr. Johnson said that           
 anything that would reduce this public health problem would be                
 supported by the department; there seems to be evidence that                  
 legislation such as HB 57 would help.                                         
                                                                               
 Mr. Johnson pointed out that the "Alaska Youth Risk Behavior                  
 Survey" was released today.  The survey stated on page 2 that 12.3            
 percent of high school age youth in Alaska had been involved in               
 drinking and driving.  He offered to make the survey available to             
 the committee.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 190                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER asked Mr. Johnson if he believed that the penalty             
 for drinking and driving should be higher than for only drinking.             
 MARK JOHNSON replied yes.                                                     
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS inquired as to the percentage of accidents in Alaska            
 which are related to alcohol and drugs.  MARK JOHNSON said that he            
 could provide that information.                                               
                                                                               
 SENATOR LINCOLN asked for a comparison of teenage drivers involved            
 in accidents versus the total number of teenage drivers.  MARK                
 JOHNSON said that he has the percentage of drivers in comparison to           
 other people who are injured or killed.  This could be matched to             
 DMV information in order to obtain that percentage.                           
                                                                               
 Number 213                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR LINCOLN understood the intent of the legislation.  However,           
 she did not want to penalize the 90 percent of good drivers for the           
 five percent having accidents.  She asked if any information                  
 categorized the youth in terms of the community in which they                 
 lived:  urban, rural, and bush.  MARK JOHNSON clarified that the              
 study to which he referred was a representative sample across the             
 state of Alaska.  The study categorizes by the age and grade level.           
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER asked if Mr. Johnson had an impression of whether             
 the statistics shift relating to urban, rural, or bush.  MARK                 
 JOHNSON deferred to the DMV.  Mr. Johnson pointed out that a                  
 brochure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration              
 states that the crash rate for per mile travel for drivers up to 20           
 years of age is approximately four times than for adults.  Among              
 that age group, the rate of death and injury is more than double              
 that of other age groups.                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 257                                                                    
                                                                               
 JOHN GEORGE, National Association of Independent Insurers, informed           
 the committee that he also serves as an Assistant Fire Chief for              
 the Auke Bay district.  It is in this second capacity that Mr.                
 George sees the youth involved in car accidents.  He said that                
 youth has a lack of experience and judgement.  HB 57 addresses the            
 need for experience behind the wheel with someone who is                      
 responsible.  Mr. George emphasized that saving lives and                     
 eliminating injuries is very important.  HB 57 is not oppressive to           
 anyone.  In the long-term, training someone to drive correctly at             
 a young age will stay with that person.                                       
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS pointed out that currently, a 14-year-old may receive           
 a learner's permit and receive experience through a driver's class            
 or a parent.  Does this bill lessen the number of accidents by                
 requiring a provisional license for a 16-year-old?                            
                                                                               
 Number 309                                                                    
                                                                               
 JOHN GEORGE stated that if there was a way to instill parental                
 responsibility in all parents, this legislation would not be                  
 necessary.  He did not see many reasons for young drivers to be out           
 at between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.  This provision could also                 
 reinforce the parent's ability to set such limits.  In his opinion,           
 the police and state troopers have some discretion with the                   
 enforcement of the bill.  Mr. George indicated that police officers           
 and state troopers would probably issue citations when appropriate.           
 HB 57 supplements parental power.                                             
                                                                               
 JUANITA HENSLEY, Chief of Drivers Services for the Division of                
 Motor Vehicles, said that the graduated license is basically a                
 restricted license program allowing new drivers to learn over a               
 period of time by controlling their progression.  This would help             
 ensure that new drivers accumulate experience in low risk settings.           
 Also the driver would be older and hopefully more mature, when                
 receiving a full license.                                                     
                                                                               
 Ms. Hensley provided the following statistics:                                
                                                                               
  *16 to 20-year-olds comprise 6.2 percent of the total licensed               
       drivers, while being involved in 32 percent of injuries and             
       fatal crashes occurring between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.                 
                                                                               
  *53 percent of youth drivers are involved in car accidents                   
   resulting in injuries or fatalities between 12:00 a.m. and                  
   8:00 p.m.                                                                   
                                                                               
 A small number of licensed drivers are causing a lot of fatalities            
 and money is being spent on the resulting injuries and fatalities.            
                                                                               
 Number 370                                                                    
                                                                               
 With regards to Senator Adams question, Ms. Hensley reported that             
 driver's education is only available through commercial driving               
 schools located in Anchorage, Juneau, Kenai, Palmer, and Fairbanks.           
 These driving schools charge approximately $500.  Many parents                
 cannot afford this.  Currently, an instruction permit is not                  
 required before receiving a license in Alaska.  She also noted that           
 minors can drive with a 19-year-old.  HB 57 increases the age of              
 the accompanying driver to 25 because of the insurance break at               
 that age.                                                                     
                                                                               
 Ms. Hensley informed the committee that she had received the                  
 following statistics from the National Traffic Safety                         
 Administration:  nationwide the cost of crashes is $137 billion,              
 in Alaska the cost of crashes exceeded $257 million in 1994.  She             
 reiterated that 53 percent of Alaska's youth, age 18-20 years old,            
 are involved in car accidents.  Of those accidents, 25 percent                
 result from speeding, 16 percent are due to driver inattention, and           
 15 percent are the result of the failure to yield.  All of those              
 causes are basic learning experiences.                                        
                                                                               
 HB 57 would allow the review of the process over three years in               
 order to determine if a graduated license program would work.  If             
 the graduated license program did work, the federal money available           
 would allow Alaska to implement a graduated license to determine              
 statistics.                                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 409                                                                    
                                                                               
 Ms. Hensley felt that six points is a lot of points in a year.                
 Violation of a restricted license carries a two point penalty,                
 which can currently be received when a driver does not wear his/her           
 prescribed glasses.  Current law allows up to 12 points per year at           
 which time the driver's license is suspended one month for the                
 first offense.  A second suspension within a two year period                  
 carries a three month wait.  A license is revoked for one year when           
 the third suspension occurs within two years.  Ms. Hensley noted              
 that existing law allows a person to take a defensive driving                 
 course to receive a two point reduction.                                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS continued to have problems with that change to six              
 points and maintained his objection.  With regards to the fiscal              
 note, Senator Adams asked if this legislation could be implemented            
 with the current staff and budget to the DMV.  JUANITA HENSLEY                
 explained that the fiscal note reflects that new revenue, $163,000,           
 would be generated.  She said that $77,000 of the $108,000 for the            
 first year's cost is federal receipts given to implement this                 
 program.                                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 444                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS asked if the new revenue Ms. Hensley is considering             
 comes from the extra $10 for a duplicate license.  In 1994 there              
 were 10,000 young people in the age range that qualified.  JUANITA            
 HENSLEY said that the $10 license fee would generate approximately            
 $100,000 per year.  The additional $63,000 is derived from the                
 reinstatement fee of a driver's license when point accumulation               
 resulted in suspension.  The reinstatement fee is either $100 or              
 $250 depending on the number of previous suspensions.                         
                                                                               
 In an attempt to clarify the steps of HB 57, SENATOR LINCOLN                  
 surmised that a 16-year-old gets a permit for six months, after               
 which a provisional license is held for one year.  Then an                    
 unrestricted license is given and then the regular license.                   
                                                                               
 In response to Senator Lincoln, JUANITA HENSLEY clarified that                
 currently, an instruction permit can be obtained at 14 and a full             
 driver's license at 16.  Under HB 57, a 16 or 17 year old would be            
 required to hold an instruction permit for six months.  A                     
 provisional license could be issued after that six month period.              
 The provisional license must be held violation free for one year.             
 Without the instruction permit, the provisional license could not             
 be obtained.  Ms. Hensley pointed out that youth ages 18-20 years             
 old are required to hold the provisional license for a year before            
 progressing to an unrestricted driver's license.                              
                                                                               
 SENATOR LINCOLN requested statistics referring only to youth ages             
 16 and 17.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 493                                                                    
                                                                               
 JUANITA HENSLEY reiterated that youth ages 18-20 years old would be           
 required to hold a provisional license for one year, but they would           
 not be required to hold the instruction permit for six months.                
 Alaska never mandated driver's education, that was left to the                
 local school districts.  She mentioned that in some states driver's           
 education is required before receiving a driver's permit or                   
 license.                                                                      
                                                                               
 There are 13 states which have some form of a graduated license               
 program.  California, Maryland and Oregon have as close to a full             
 graduated license program as HB 57 proposes for Alaska.  Ms.                  
 Hensley reported the following statistics:                                    
                                                                               
  * California and Maryland had a five percent reduction                       
    in crashes with drivers of 15-17 years old;                                
  * Maryland had a 10 percent reduction in the number of traffic               
    convictions for drivers 16-17 years old;                                   
  * Oregon had a 16 percent reduction in crashes for male                      
    drivers 16-17 years old.                                                   
                                                                               
 Ms. Hensley reiterated that the federal grants for this program               
 would allow study of the program and the breakdown of the                     
 statistics.  She offered to provide the committee with the                    
 statistics she did have.                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 523                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR LINCOLN surmised that a 20-year-old would not be allowed              
 drive after 1:00 a.m. unless he/she was going to work.  JUANITA               
 HENSLEY agreed, if that 20-year-old holds a provisional license.              
 Ms. Hensley said that a full driver's license could be obtained               
 before 20 years of age; the means to do so is provided through the            
 provisional stage.  An 18-year-old, providing there was no city               
 curfew laws, who had went through the provisional license stage and           
 had been issued an unrestricted license could drive after 1:00 a.m.           
 Only provisional license holders are restricted between 1:00 a.m.             
 and 5:00 a.m.                                                                 
                                                                               
 JUANITA HENSLEY explained that the provisional license is only                
 required to be held for one year, violation free, after which a               
 full unrestricted license could be issued.                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS asked if persons moving here from another state would           
 be subject to this graduated license program within Alaska.                   
 JUANITA HENSLEY replied yes.  The young person would be given 90              
 days to come into compliance with Alaska's law.                               
                                                                               
 Number 559                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER referred to page 2, lines 14-23 when indicating               
 that a 16 year old would have two routes to achieve an unrestricted           
 driver's license.  A 16-year-old could get a provisional license              
 and wait two years to receive an unrestricted license or the 16-              
 year-old could get a learner's permit, hold it for six months and             
 hold the provisional license for a year and receive the                       
 unrestricted license at age 17 1/2.                                           
                                                                               
 JUANITA HENSLEY explained that a 15 1/2-year-old could hold an                
 instruction permit for six months.  Then at age 16, a provisional             
 license could be issued for one year.  After a violation free year            
 with the provisional license, the 17-year-old could be issued an              
 unrestricted license.                                                         
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER understood the bill to say that if an instructional           
 license was not obtained, then the young person could not obtain an           
 unrestricted license before age 18.  JUANITA HENSLEY agreed.                  
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER inquired as to why an unrestricted license could              
 not be obtained through any combination of one and a half years.              
 JUANITA HENSLEY said that a 17-year-old who had not held an                   
 instruction permit for six months would be required to do so.                 
 After that, the young person could obtain a provisional license for           
 a year after which an unrestricted license could be obtained at age           
 18 1/2.                                                                       
                                                                               
 TAPE 96-3, SIDE B                                                             
                                                                               
 Ms. Hensley pointed out that an 18-year-old just beginning the                
 graduated license process would be required to hold the provisional           
 license for one year without the six month instruction permit.                
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER reiterated that a 16-year-old just beginning the              
 graduated license process has two options.  He/she can obtain an              
 instruction permit, at age 15 1/2, for six months followed by a               
 provisional license for one year and then an unrestricted license.            
 Or if the instruction permit is skipped, at age 16 a provisional              
 license could be obtained, but an unrestricted license could not be           
 obtained until age 18.  JUANITA HENSLEY agreed with that                      
 assessment.  Ms. Hensley clarified that the provisional license is            
 only required for one year.                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 567                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR LINCOLN read this section to say that a young person would            
 wait a year and a half, 18 years old, before a provisional license            
 could be obtained.  JUANITA HENSLEY reiterated that ages 16-18 must           
 hold an instruction permit for six months.  Then the provisional              
 license must be held for a year.                                              
                                                                               
 JUANITA HENSLEY agreed with Chairman Rieger that even at age 16 the           
 instruction permit must be held for six months in order to receive            
 a provisional license.                                                        
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER pointed out that the violation free provisional               
 license is not specified in the bill.  HB 57 states that the                  
 provisional license must be suspension free.  Does the one year               
 suspension free provisional license have to be consecutive?                   
 JUANITA HENSLEY replied yes.                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 536                                                                    
                                                                               
 JAY DULANY, Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles, clarified             
 that the point system is set in regulation.  Mr. Dulany did not               
 believe that a provisional license would have to be held for a                
 consecutive year suspension free.  The bill states that the                   
 provisional license must be held for one year suspension free,                
 therefore, a person could have their license suspended for one                
 month and then the full license could be obtained in 13 months.  In           
 conclusion, Mr. Dulany believed that HB 57 was fairly                         
 straightforward in that the bill eases new drivers into the driving           
 environment in order to save lives.                                           
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER asked if the language in the bill referring to                
 suspended, revoked, or denied licenses was already determined by              
 the department.  JAY DULANY replied yes.  The first suspension is             
 for 30 days, the second within a two year period is for 90 days,              
 and the third within two years would result in a one year                     
 revocation.                                                                   
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS asked if that was established under the 12 point                
 system.  JAY DULANY replied yes.  Mr. Dulany clarified that the               
 regulations refer to the accumulation of points requiring                     
 suspension which should cover the six point system in HB 57.                  
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER said that the regulations refer to the accumulation           
 of 12 or more points and does not speak to a six point system.  He            
 asked if violation of the curfew would carry a two point penalty.             
 JAY DULANY said that such a violation would fall under the "all               
 others" category specified in the regulations and would carry a two           
 point penalty.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 493                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER asked if the issue here is the three violations or            
 the six points.  JAY DULANY suggested that the issue is the                   
 severity of the violations.  Mr. Dulany pointed out that a serious            
 violation could be a six point violation.                                     
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER noted that there are no 12 point violations,                  
 although a number of violations carry 10 points.  Therefore, no one           
 violation would cause an immediate suspension, two violations would           
 be necessary for suspension.  Could the logic behind the six points           
 be related to the need for two violations before suspension?  JAY             
 DULANY said yes, such logic was utilized when the point system was            
 established in 1975.  More than one offense was necessitated for              
 suspension due to the specification of an accumulation of points in           
 the regulations.  Some point assessments were changed from 12 to 10           
 in order to require two offenses before a license could be                    
 suspended or revoked.                                                         
                                                                               
 In response to Senator Adams, JAY DULANY explained that the point             
 assessment for each violation would be the same, but if the                   
 individual was not under a provisional license there would be no              
 nighttime restriction.                                                        
                                                                               
 JUANITA HENSLEY agreed that an individual having an unrestricted              
 license would not be subject to the curfew.                                   
                                                                               
 Number 455                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS requested that HB 57 be held.                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER expressed concern with the six point cumulative               
 provision of the bill which seemed to be a departure from the                 
 multiple violation policy.  He asked Ms. Gruening if there had been           
 debate in other committees regarding the six point provision.                 
 MELINDA GRUENING replied no and stated that the purpose of the six            
 points is to require the young person to prove a safe record to a             
 higher standard than other older, more experienced drivers.                   
                                                                               
 JUANITA HENSLEY informed the committee that many groups such as the           
 National Highway Traffic Association have research indicating that            
 young people should be held to half the level of point accumulation           
 than more experienced drivers.  This allows the young person to be            
 in a violation free setting.  Ms. Hensley agreed with Mr. Dulany              
 that the suspension free year could be satisfied with six months,             
 a 30 day suspension, and then another six months.                             
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN RIEGER noted that the bill would require a change in the             
 effective date upon its movement out of this committee.  The bill             
 was drafted last year.  HB 57 was held.                                       

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