Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/27/1996 01:36 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
STRA - 2/27/96 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. Number 011 DARCY DUVLEA, Senior at Wasilla High School, pointed out that HB 57 places a curfew on 18 to 20-year-olds that have provisional licenses; that places a curfew on an adult. She did not believe this curfew to be reasonable when 18-year-olds can serve in the military. Perhaps, there could be an alternative to the provisional license for those over the age of 18. She believed that the provisional license would decrease the accidents for 16 to 20-year-olds. Ms. Duvlea informed the committee that Representative Green's office had provided the information from which the bill was based. That information included statistics from 1993 which stated that 32 percent of youth drivers are involved in crashes between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. She pointed out that the time period between 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. was not grouped together. During that time period, 41 percent of the crashes occur. Drivers age 16- 20 comprise 12.8 percent of the total crashes while drivers age 31- 35 comprise 12.3 percent of the total traffic crashes. That .5 percent difference did not seem to be proportionally significant. Number 062 Ms. Duvlea informed the committee that other states with curfews apply the curfew to youth age 18 and younger. Six states have a type of nighttime restriction: Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. HB 57 is not a bad bill, but the statistics from which the bill is based are three years old. Ms. Duvlea suggested that driver's education could be required at the driver's expense. SENATOR ADAMS referred Ms. Duvlea to page 3, lines 12-16 when he asked if she agreed with the change from 12 points for suspension of license to six points. DARCY DUVLEA indicated that enforcement of the curfew would be difficult and would require increased police patrol. Would people be pulled over because they looked young? Ms. Duvlea was unclear as to how long the provisional license would be revoked for a person holding a provisional license that had accumulated six points. Number 118 SENATOR TAYLOR congratulated Ms. Duvlea on her research and work on HB 57. CHAIRMAN RIEGER thanked Ms. Duvlea for her testimony and welcomed Representative Joe Green to sit at the table. JOSH STEADMAN, student from Valdez, believed HB 57 to be a good bill. The fiscal notes illustrate that the bill would generate revenue; is that the reason for the bill? REPRESENTATIVE GREEN, Prime Sponsor, said that HB 57 has nothing to do with generating money. HB 57 is concerned with safety, carnage, and death. Number 147 JOSH STEADMAN pointed out that committee minutes included a report which stated that California and Maryland reported only a five percent reduction in crashes involving 15 to 17-year-olds after establishing a graduated license program. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Mr. Steadman if he were part of that five percent, would it be worth it? JOSH STEADMAN said that HB 57 is a good bill. JOSH STEADMAN suggested that driver's education could replace the instructional permit or could be offered as an alternative. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN pointed out that the figures to which Mr. Steadman referred earlier were actually the cost of implementation not revenue. Instituting a driver's education program would be extremely expensive. Representative Green said that the amount of education does not matter, the important factor is how the vehicle is actually operated. A vehicle is a killing machine. JOSH STEADMAN viewed the provisional license as a second permit with a curfew. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated that the early hours of the morning are when the most accidents occur as well as the fact that the accident rate for young drivers is about twice as much as that for adult drivers. HB 57 is a two prong attempt to make young people realize that an automobile can kill. Number 192 JOSH STEADMAN inquired as to the reasoning behind the change in age of the accompanying driver from age 19 to 25. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN explained that there is a statistical advantage for the accompanying driver to be 25. Statistically, 25-year-olds have less per capita carnage than at age 19. If a person is learning to drive, he/she should learn from someone illustrating responsibility. SENATOR LINCOLN did not believe that driver's education through the school system was available. She related her experience with her children who utilized driver's education and received a cheaper insurance rate because of that education. Senator Lincoln did not believe that driver's education was available in Valdez; she asked how Mr. Steadman and his friends would be taught to drive? JOSH STEADMAN affirmed that the driving portion of driver's education had been eliminated in Valdez. Currently, a semester is spent learning the book portion of driver's education. In the summer, the driving portion is offered for about $300. Mr. Steadman asked if the driving portion of driver's education was eliminated across the state. SENATOR LINCOLN did not know. Number 230 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN pointed out that Juanita Hensley was present and could perhaps, better answer such questions. CHAIRMAN RIEGER asked Mr. Steadman if he had an opinion regarding the six points. JOSH STEADMAN felt that six points could be reached quickly, for example, drinking and driving. Mr. Steadman reiterated that six points could be reached quickly. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if the point system should be left at 12 so that a teenager could drink and drive at least one time. JOSH STEADMAN said no. Number 248 JUANITA HENSLEY, Chief of Drivers Services with the DMV, offered to answer any questions from the committee. CHAIRMAN RIEGER asked if someone with a suspended license would automatically be subject to SR 22. JUANITA HENSLEY specified that a person would be subject to SR 22 if the violation involved a moving motor vehicle. She pointed out that the "use it or lose it" legislation passed a couple of years ago included an exemption for SR 22 because it did not require the use of a motor vehicle to have the license revoked. A court revocation of a license also does not apply to SR 22 for the aforementioned reason. She explained that SR 22 is a form number given by the insurance industry to file with the motor vehicle agencies throughout the nation. SR 22 in Alaska is the basic limits of liability required for anyone to hold a driver's license. Any time that a license is suspended or revoked due to a points violation, SR 22 would be required in order to obtain the license again. Number 277 Ms. Hensley explained that once six points is reached in a 12 month period under the current system, the DMV is required to send a warning notice. At this point, the individual could take a defensive driving course in order to reduce his/her total points by two. The division sent 17,000 warning letters last year informing individuals that they had reached the halfway point and advising them to take part in the defensive driving course. Only 2,500 license were suspended. Ms. Hensley emphasized that the division does not like to reach the point of suspending someone's license. Under HB 57, a young person would receive a warning letter when he/she receives three points. At that time, the young person could participate in a defensive driving course and reduce his/her total points by two. If the young person reaches the point of suspension, six points, he/she would receive 30 days notice to take a defensive driving course in order to receive a two point reduction in their total points. Taking a defensive driving course is advantageous to the young person as well as the DMV. Number 316 CHAIRMAN RIEGER asked Ms. Hensley if she had an estimate of the difference of the premium per year for a driver insured under an average SR 22 policy as compared to a driver covered under the family's policy as a youth. JUANITA HENSLEY did not have that information. As a parent, Ms. Hensley noted that factors such as the age and cost of the vehicle, the age of the parents, the grade point average of the youth, and whether the youth took a driver's education course effected the cost of the policy. SENATOR GREEN understood that the SR 22 premium was approximately a 10 percent on property and bodily damage plus the surcharge. She indicated that transferring back to normal coverage from the SR 22 was cumbersome. JUANITA HENSLEY interjected that those who must file SR 22 are habitual problem drivers. Such drivers cost the state and individuals a lot of money. Number 343 SENATOR LINCOLN believed that Ms. Hensley meant that the majority of folks with SR 22 are the habitual problem drivers. She related the following scenario in which the person does not fall into the normal categories associated with SR 22 drivers. A person driving another person's vehicle, not knowing that the owner did not have automobile insurance, could be hit by someone else; such a person still has to get SR 22 insurance. Furthermore, an inebriated youth behind the wheel of an automobile, even if he/she is not driving, would fall under SR 22. Senator Lincoln requested that Ms. Hensley provide her office with the statistics to which she referred. With regards to the defensive driving course, Senator Lincoln expressed concern that the course is not available in rural or bush communities. People in those communities would have to travel to an urban area for the course as well as the driver's training; that would be cost prohibitive. JUANITA HENSLEY informed the committee that some areas offer defensive driving courses through correspondence courses. In order to have the course approved, the curriculum and outline would need to be submitted to the division for approval. The course is available, it's a matter of whether someone would monitor and return the courses to bush and rural areas. Number 390 SENATOR TAYLOR inquired as to how many states have adopted the "Cinderella Law" to which Ms. Duvlea referred. JUANITA HENSLEY said that there are currently two stages of a graduated license program in the U.S. Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont have at least five components of a full graduated license program. Three states have three components of a full graduated license program. In all, approximately 16 states have some form of a graduated license program. SENATOR TAYLOR indicated that Alaska would qualify for the graduated license program now because a 14-year-old can obtain a driver's license to operate a certain horsepower level scooter and then move to a learner's permit and then the license at 16. JUANITA HENSLEY clarified that a instruction permit is permissible. With regards to the motor scooter, a young person can only operate a scooter with less than 50 cc until the age of 16. Ms. Hensley pointed out that the Province of Ontario includes every age, any new applicant, in their graduated driver's license. Every new applicant must go through an 18 month period of the same restrictions proposed in HB 57. Ms. Hensley expressed concern with Alaska's transient population which may become licensed in their local area without training, now they can drive anywhere - L.A., Seattle, Washington, D.C. She did not believe that it could be determined how such an individual would drive in those situations. SENATOR TAYLOR emphasized that the knowledge of whether these drivers are succeeding or failing is known. However, the knowledge of the extent to which the driver's proficiency would increase under this system is not known. He asked Ms. Hensley if the numbers to which Ms. Duvlea referred to earlier were correct. What are the statistics from other states which were used to justify the implementation of the graduated license program? Number 421 JUANITA HENSLEY reported the following information: * California and Maryland had a five percent reduction in crashes for drivers age 15-17; * Maryland had a 10 percent reduction in traffic convictions for ages 16-17; * Oregon had a 16 percent reduction in crashes for male drivers ages 16-17. With regard to Alaska, 16 to 20-year-olds represent 6.2 percent of the licensed drivers in the state, however, they account for 12.9 percent of the total traffic crashes in Alaska. Also 28.8 percent of the total fatal crashes involved that age group. SENATOR TAYLOR surmised that about six percent of the driving population is having 12 percent of the crashes. Therefore, 16 to 20-year-olds are crashing at twice the rate as the rest of the driving population. Are there similar statistics for other age groups? JUANITA HENSLEY said that she could have a statistical report prepared. Nationwide, ages 16-20 are the most troublesome age group; they are issued the most traffic citations, their insurance rates are higher and they are involved in more serious accidents. The number of miles driven must also be reviewed. She offered to provide the committee with national statistics as well as Alaskan statistics. SENATOR TAYLOR asked if there was a time when the 12 points accumulated over a period of three or four years. JUANITA HENSLEY replied no, there has been either 12 points in a 12 month period or 18 points in a 24 month period. In response to Senator Taylor, Ms. Hensley said that a curfew violation would result in a two point penalty. The curfew violation would be driving in violation of a restricted driver's license which is the same as a driver's license restriction to wear corrective lenses. Ms. Hensley reiterated that a youth reaching the six point level could take a defensive driving course in order to have two points credited to his/her license. Number 471 SENATOR GREEN asked if the SR 22 coverage could be waived when a license is reissued. JUANITA HENSLEY explained that the SR 22 requirement is set in statute, therefore the only way would be to waive the requirement by statute. SENATOR GREEN asked if there were any violations, such as a curfew violation, which should not have the SR 22 coverage attached. JUANITA HENSLEY clarified that points are based on the severity and potential to cause injury and fatalities. For instance, speeding through a school zone carries six points. Drunk driving and reckless driving both carry 10 points as well as revocation of the license. In those two cases, the court would revoke a person's license regardless of the number of points. SENATOR TAYLOR stated that doing three miles per hour over the speed limit would be a two point violation. Two such violations would amount to four points, a curfew violation would place the youth at the six point limit. Would the youth be entitled to a jury trial since a license and a privilege would be revoked? JUANITA HENSLEY pointed out that the violation would not cause the loss of the driver's license, but rather the accumulation of violations. Number 506 SENATOR TAYLOR informed everyone that there is a bill in House Finance in which the Department of Law has determined that if a judge revokes or suspends a person's driver's license because of failure to pay traffic fines, that person is retroactively entitled to a jury trial. That bill also has a $160,000 fiscal note. He was confused due to the conflicting information from the Administration. JUANITA HENSLEY clarified that the points system is an administrative suspension of a driver's license and does not fall under the recommendations of a jury trial. The individual does have the right to an administrative hearing in order to contest the suspension of their license for point accumulation. Currently, very few people contest the loss of license due to point accumulation. A person cannot contest a violation for which he/she has already been convicted, the person can only contest the fact that his/her driver's license is being suspended. Ms. Hensley estimated that less than five such hearings occur per year. In response to Senator Taylor, JUANITA HENSLEY explained that when the third citation is received, as well as a points notice, that informs the person that his/her license is being suspended. By current law, the person must be informed that he/she has 30 days before the suspension takes affect. Within that 30 days, the person could take the defensive driving course and reduce their points by two which would nullify the suspension. Ms. Hensley emphasized that the division does not like to reach the point of suspending licenses because it is not cost effective. In response to Senator Green, Ms. Hensley clarified that the defensive driving course can only be taken once in a 12 month period. Number 548 CHAIRMAN RIEGER asked if the previous testimony stating that other states with the "Cinderella Law" only apply to those under 18 years of age was correct. JUANITA HENSLEY pointed out that Ontario has no tolerance for any age. CHAIRMAN RIEGER rephrased his question; are there any states that apply the "Cinderella Law" to those 18 and older? JUANITA HENSLEY stated that it varies from state to state. CHAIRMAN RIEGER said that he had not heard a state yet that applied to youth 18 or over; is there one? JUANITA HENSLEY noted that California has a minimum age of 18 to receive a full license. CHAIRMAN RIEGER repeated his question regarding those states which have a "Cinderella Law" that applies to 18-year-olds or do all the states apply to those 17 years of age and under? JUANITA HENSLEY informed the committee of the minimum age to receive a license in the following states: Colorado - under 21, Massachusetts - 18 years old, New York - 17 years old, Oregon - 18 years old, Pennsylvania -17 years old, Vermont - 18 years old, and Wisconsin - 18 years old. HB 57 would allow a youth to receive a full license at the age of 17 in Alaska providing that the youth went through the instructional permit and the provisional stage. TAPE 96-4, SIDE B CHAIRMAN RIEGER surmised that anyone under 21 in Colorado would be subject to a curfew when driving. JUANITA HENSLEY reported that Colorado does not have a nighttime restriction. Colorado does not have a full graduated license program. In order to receive a license in Colorado, the person must have had driver's education, a visually distinct driver's license, a mandatory seatbelt, a learner's permit, and been through an intermediate stage. Those are all required up to age 21. CHAIRMAN RIEGER said then that in Colorado, one could have a restricted license with regards to the driver's education requirement and the different color of the license. JUANITA HENSLEY added that the learner's permit and intermediate stage would also be necessary. She offered to provide the committee with this information. Number 575 SENATOR TAYLOR reiterated Ms. Hensley's comment that a 17-year-old could receive a full driver's license when asking; would that 17- year-old still be restricted with regard to the "Cinderella Law"? JUANITA HENSLEY replied not under a full license. SENATOR TAYLOR believed that a full license would be obtained at age 17 and a half. JUANITA HENSLEY explained that an instruction permit could be obtained at age 14 which could be held for two years. At age 16, a provisional license could be obtained which must be held for one year. Therefore, at age 17 an unrestricted full license could be obtained. JOANNA FIMPLE, student from Glennallen and Eureka, felt that HB 57 was discriminating against youth. The "Cinderella Law" could actually take away power from the parents. She felt it unfortunate that these restrictions must be placed on the new driver. Driving is a privilege and one becomes better with experience. Ms. Fimple did not believe that there should be a change in the driver's license procedure. However, it is unfortunate that deaths occur due to car accidents, but accidents occur even with those who have driven many years. SENATOR LINCOLN appreciated Ms. Fimple's testimony. She informed the committee that she had held a teleconference with people in Glennallen regarding their opinions of HB 57. Senator Lincoln agreed that all the lives that could be saved should be, no matter the age. Too often, youth are isolated and categorized as those causing violent crimes, deaths, etc. Senator Lincoln did not want to categorize young people as terrible drivers because a great number of young people are responsible. If HB 57 saves a life, then it is worth it. However, the bill is unfair to the good young drivers with regards to the curfew provision. Number 518 MARK JOHNSON, Chief of Community Health & Emergency Medical Services, said that he had a chart which clarifies that teenagers are the most dangerous drivers on the highway. He offered to share this information with the committee. The hospital records in Alaska, illustrate that 24 percent of the youth in accidents were drinking at the time of the injury. The average cost of hospitalization for the injured youth is $20,000 per patient. Mr. Johnson informed the committee that 40 percent of the youth fatalities are motor vehicle related. Driver's education has been studied in the East. Those studies determined that those districts having driver's education in schools experienced more accidents, injuries, and fatalities than those districts without driver's education. Mr. Johnson explained that the study found that more high school aged youth would obtain their license after having the driver's education than in the school districts without driver's education. The study concluded that high school aged youth, regardless of participation in driver's education, was the most dangerous age group on the road. From a public health perspective, Mr. Johnson supported HB 57. Number 493 SENATOR GREEN said that the problem seems to be with the points. Perhaps, eight points could be the solution. Senator Green moved that on page 3, line 15, the word " six " be deleted and "eight" be added. SENATOR LINCOLN thought that Senator Adams had intended to make a motion to change the points to 10. She did not know the difference between eight points versus 10 points. Senator Lincoln supported an increase over the six points, but seemed to be unsure as to whether it should be eight or 10. CHAIRMAN RIEGER noted that HB 57 would be heard in Senate Judiciary next and then Senate Finance. CHAIRMAN RIEGER mentioned that running a stop sign at 1:30 a.m. would use all six points. JUANITA HENSLEY interjected that there may be two violations, but points would only be assessed for one violation since they occurred at the same time. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN pointed out that his scenario assumed that the youth was not going between work and home in the most direct route. Hearing no objection, the amendment was adopted. SENATOR TAYLOR moved that the effective date be changed from "January 1, 1996" to "January 1, 1997." Hearing no objection, the motion passed. SENATOR GREEN moved that SCS HB 57(TRA) be moved out of committee with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.