Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/22/1996 01:36 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.