Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205

02/10/2009 01:00 PM Senate TRANSPORTATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SB 25 Out of Committee
Moved SB 72 Out of Committee
             SB  72-CHILD SAFETY SEATS & SEAT BELTS                                                                         
CHAIR KOOKESH announced the consideration of SB 72.                                                                             
SENATOR HOLLIS FRENCH, Alaska State  Legislature, Juneau, said he                                                               
is the sponsor of SB 72.                                                                                                        
1:12:36 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  FRENCH said  of  the  61 children  under  the  age of  8                                                               
injured in auto  accidents in Alaska between 2001  and 2005, only                                                               
5 were  properly restrained under  federal standards.  Nearly two                                                               
thirds of  those 61 children  were between the  ages of 4  and 8.                                                               
They were too large for a car  seat and too small for a seatbelt.                                                               
Current Alaska law requires the  use of proper safety devices for                                                               
children  under  the  age  of 16.  The  National  Highway  Safety                                                               
Traffic Administration  recommends that children under  80 pounds                                                               
and under 57 inches use a child's safety seat or a belt-                                                                        
positioning booster  seat. SB 72  will put  those recommendations                                                               
in  statute, clarifying  for law  enforcement  officials what  is                                                               
required.  All  safety  devices   must  meet  or  exceed  federal                                                               
standards. As of September 2008,  43 other states mandate booster                                                               
seats. While any restraint is  better than none, national studies                                                               
have shown  that booster seats  are 60 percent safer  than safety                                                               
belts alone. The cost of a  booster seat is between $25 and $100.                                                               
By passing  this legislation, Alaska  becomes eligible  for about                                                               
$200,000 in federal highway safety funds.                                                                                       
1:14:27 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KOOKESH  said there was  a seat belt  bill a few  years ago                                                               
that he objected  to because of towns like Beaver  that have only                                                               
a mile of  road and one or two vehicles,  "and I've heard stories                                                               
of a  state trooper  going to  that individual  and giving  him a                                                               
ticket for not  wearing a seat belt when he's  going four to five                                                               
miles per  hour." He likes the  idea of getting $200,000,  but he                                                               
doesn't like  having laws like  that in rural Alaska,  where they                                                               
just don't fit.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR FRENCH  said he  would promote  a statewide  standard for                                                               
all  Alaskans. There  are  laws that  have  exemptions for  rural                                                               
Alaskans, like the one for  ignition interlocks. If a person gets                                                               
a ticket  under this  bill, he  or she  only needs  to buy  a $20                                                               
booster seat to cancel the ticket.                                                                                              
1:16:10 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  KOOKESH said  he doesn't  want it  to cover  all of  rural                                                               
Alaska.  He   represents  96  rural  communities   and  most  are                                                               
considered off-road.                                                                                                            
SENATOR  FRENCH  said this  bill  will  apply  to the  roads  and                                                               
highways of the state. If there  are places that don't fall under                                                               
that definition, it won't apply. The bill is in your hands.                                                                     
CHAIR  KOOKESH said  he doesn't  see that  exception. He  doesn't                                                               
want to hurt the constituents that he represents.                                                                               
1:17:04 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MEYER  said it  looks like these  seats cost  between $25                                                               
and  $100. Bike  helmets are  given  to people  who can't  afford                                                               
them, and he asked if that will be the case for booster seats.                                                                  
SENATOR FRENCH  said he  doesn't know, but  the seats  are little                                                               
plastic buckets about  the size of a phone book  that simply lift                                                               
a child  high enough  to make  the seat  belt function.  They are                                                               
less than $30.  If a person can afford a  car and insurance, this                                                               
little investment for a child's safety is appropriate.                                                                          
SENATOR  MEYER said  about  30  to 35  percent  of people  cannot                                                               
afford insurance.  There will  be people who  want to  spend that                                                               
$30  elsewhere or  think  that  their kid  is  big  enough at  60                                                               
pounds. He  thinks there will  be some  group to help  low income                                                               
people purchase the seats.                                                                                                      
SENATOR FRENCH  said there are  activists in the  state promoting                                                               
this idea, and they that can address that.                                                                                      
1:19:05 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MENARD applauded  the senator  for the  bill, and  if it                                                               
passes, groups like rotary clubs will likely help.                                                                              
CHAIR KOOKESH  said off-road  vehicles are  not required  to have                                                               
SENATOR  FRENCH said  there is  an  exception to  seat belt  use,                                                               
which will apply  to this bill. The  exception includes operators                                                               
or passengers of  motorcycles, off-highway vehicles, snowmobiles,                                                               
and others vehicles that are not to be driven on the highway.                                                                   
CHAIR KOOKESH  said he  knew that and  wanted Senator  French, as                                                               
the sponsor of the bill, to say it on the record.                                                                               
1:20:32 PM                                                                                                                    
NANCY   BARROS,  Department   of   Emergency  Medical   Services,                                                               
Department  of Health  and Social  Services (DHSS),  Juneau, said                                                               
DHSS  supports  SB 72.  Motor  vehicle-related  injuries are  the                                                               
leading cause of  death in the United State  for children between                                                               
the ages  of 2  and 14.  In Alaska, they  are the  second highest                                                               
cause of  hospitalizations for children  under the age of  14. In                                                               
2006, 7  children were severely  injured in Alaska  motor vehicle                                                               
crashes.  From  2002 to  2006,  63  children have  been  injured.                                                               
Children who are restrained in  booster seats are 59 percent less                                                               
likely  to  be injured  than  children  using  only a  lap  belt.                                                               
Voluntary seat belt inspection stations  found that 85 percent of                                                               
children  are  improperly  restrained,   and  one  third  of  the                                                               
children under the  age of 14 use the wrong  restraint. More than                                                               
85  percent   of  the   children  hospitalized   were  improperly                                                               
restrained with  a lap belt-shoulder  harness only, or  they were                                                               
not restrained  at all.  The current  statute is  confusing about                                                               
specific  standards for  age  and  weight-based restraints.  This                                                               
bill is  designed to eliminate  confusion about  which restraints                                                               
are appropriate.                                                                                                                
1:22:57 PM                                                                                                                    
CINDY  CASHEN,  Administrator,   Alaska  Highway  Safety  Office,                                                               
Department  of  Transportation  and  Public  Facilities  (DOTPF),                                                               
Juneau, said her office is  responsible for administering federal                                                               
funding to  effective data-driven  driver behavior  programs that                                                               
save  lives and  reduce injuries.  It  would be  her office  that                                                               
would apply  for the  funding if this  bill passed.  According to                                                               
the U.S. Department of Transportation's  chief council, this bill                                                               
would make  Alaska eligible for  $194,000 in this  federal fiscal                                                               
year. It would  be the last year of funding.  Booster seat use is                                                               
mandated  in 43  other  states. Her  office  currently funds  the                                                               
Child  Booster  Seat  Program  in   Alaska.  It  is  operated  by                                                               
hospitals,  fire  departments, and  police  stations  at a  local                                                               
level. It is  a very effective program. She looks  forward to its                                                               
annual reports  because it does  a great  job getting out  to the                                                               
communities  and educating  parents and  others. The  program not                                                               
only  shows people  how to  put  in a  safety seat,  but it  also                                                               
provides them,  especially to low  income families. It is  one of                                                               
the strongest grassroots organizations  she has ever worked with.                                                               
With these funds, up to 50 percent  of the grant would have to be                                                               
used for  purchasing and distributing  child safety seats  to low                                                               
income  families. Currently  there  aren't enough  funds for  the                                                               
rural areas. "We're pretty strong  in Fairbanks and Anchorage and                                                               
Mat-Su; not so  much in Juneau." In the rural  areas it is pretty                                                               
much nonexistent,  except where local hospitals  have access. So,                                                               
Alaska really needs  these funds. The remaining  amounts would be                                                               
used   for  training   child   passenger  safety   professionals,                                                               
including police and fire personnel and parents.                                                                                
1:26:08 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  CASHEN said  the vast  majority of  people with  children in                                                               
their cars need the training to  install the seats. The seats are                                                               
hard to put in.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR MENARD asked if they are as difficult to take out.                                                                      
MS.  CASHEN said  one needs  to kneel  on them  to make  sure the                                                               
harness is secure, but taking them out is easy.                                                                                 
1:27:49 PM                                                                                                                    
JON COOK, Legislative Director,  Alaska Auto Dealers Association,                                                               
Anchorage, said his  group supports SB 72. The  bill has remained                                                               
unchanged  from   last  year.   Current  statute  is   vague  and                                                               
confusing.  It  just  says  to comply  with  U.S.  Department  of                                                               
Transportation  guidelines and  leaves a  lot of  guess work  for                                                               
parents and  law enforcement. But SB  72 lays it out  clearly for                                                               
everyone.  There have  been tremendous  advances  in auto  safety                                                               
systems, but  you don't want  children to  be in the  wrong sized                                                               
system. Airbags have tremendous force  and can cause serious harm                                                               
if a child is not in the correct restraint.                                                                                     
1:29:38 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR PASKVAN  asked if  the bill  will specify  current safety                                                               
standards in Alaska statutes.                                                                                                   
MR. COOK said yes.                                                                                                              
1:30:02 PM                                                                                                                    
MARGARET HAYASHI, Retired Nurse, Anchorage,  said she has been an                                                               
emergency nurse in  three major trauma centers. She  was also the                                                               
statewide Childhood  Injury Prevention coordinator. She  has been                                                               
an  instructor since  1987. The  1985  law is  very confusing  to                                                               
parents.  This doesn't  change  the law,  it  just clarifies  it.                                                               
There  have been  tragic  misunderstandings  by parents  thinking                                                               
that children  could come out  of car seats  at the age  of four.                                                               
"We did  submit this bill  last year, and it  remains unchanged."                                                               
Since then, Alaska has lost a  7-year-old who should have been in                                                               
a booster seat. A parent did  not understand the issue. She works                                                               
with programs throughout  the state and is now  in Mat-Su working                                                               
with  the fire  department,  which will  be  instituting a  child                                                               
passenger program where people can  come and have their car seats                                                               
checked. Low income  families get car seats free or  at a reduced                                                               
price. Booster seats can be  $17. "This is simply a clarification                                                               
of a law that we put forth in  1985, making it so much easier for                                                               
parents." She has seen parents saying,  "If only I had known." It                                                               
is  difficult  for emergency  staff  and  certainly the  families                                                               
losing the child. She sees the need for education statewide.                                                                    
1:33:12 PM                                                                                                                    
GORDON GLASER, Injury Prevention  and Emergency Medical Services,                                                               
Department of  Health and Social  Services, Anchorage,  said that                                                               
the earlier testimony  of 63 people injured between  2002 to 2006                                                               
refers to people who were  hospitalized severely enough, and only                                                               
9 were  in child seats  and some of  them were not  in correctly.                                                               
That number doesn't  represent the number of  fatalities. In 2006                                                               
there were 5 fatalities of children under  9, and 4 of the 5 were                                                               
of booster seat  age. The program has been  effective for infants                                                               
leaving  the hospital,  but as  they  get older  it becomes  more                                                               
difficult.  His group  has been  providing  training and  booster                                                               
distribution.  Kenai has  been  on the  cutting  edge of  getting                                                               
programs in that area. Through  Safe Kids programs and the Office                                                               
of Highway Safety, "we provide  over 1,000 car seats and boosters                                                               
throughout  the state  ... on  a  sliding scale  to families  who                                                               
cannot afford it." This bill will expand that program.                                                                          
1:35:50 PM                                                                                                                    
JODYNE  BUTTO,   Pediatrician  and  President,   Alaska  Chapter,                                                               
American  Academy of  Pediatrics, Anchorage,  said the  group has                                                               
been in favor of  this bill for a couple of  years. Alaska is one                                                               
of  only 8  states that  don't require  booster seats.  There are                                                               
fewer roads, but they need to  be safe for children. This bill is                                                               
a   clarification  to   help  parents,   grandparents,  and   law                                                               
enforcement to ensure that children  are properly restrained. The                                                               
Academy has worked hard in other states to promote this.                                                                        
1:37:36 PM                                                                                                                    
JANICE  TOWER, Alaska  Chapter, American  Academy of  Pediatrics,                                                               
Anchorage, said she  is delighted that Dr. Butto  spoke on behalf                                                               
of the 83 members of the chapter.  It is a very welcomed piece of                                                               
legislation.  She hopes  that the  third year  is the  charm. The                                                               
bill will assist many pediatricians  in helping parents learn how                                                               
to properly restrain their children.                                                                                            
JILL HODGES,  Director, Alaska  Brain Injury  Network, Anchorage,                                                               
expressed  the   Network's  support   for  SB  72.   Proper  seat                                                               
restraints  prevent  brain injuries.  Brain  injury  is a  silent                                                               
epidemic  in Alaska.  Last year  800  Alaskans were  hospitalized                                                               
with a  traumatic brain injury,  which is a  jolt or blow  to the                                                               
head.  Some heal  and some  have lifelong  challenges. Since  the                                                               
primary seat belt  law in 2001, traumatic brain  injury rates due                                                               
to motor vehicle accidents have  decreased 38 percent. The Center                                                               
for Disease  Control and Prevention recommends  buckling children                                                               
in  appropriate safety  seats. Children  need healthy  bodies and                                                               
brains to  be successful  socially and in  school. There  will be                                                               
more healthy brains in Alaska with the passage of SB 72.                                                                        
1:41:09 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MENARD  moved  to  report  SB  72  from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There                                                               
being no objection, SB 72 moved out of committee.                                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Senate Bill 25_Bill Packet.pdf STRA 2/10/2009 1:00:00 PM
Richard Dewey Duvall Ferry Terminal
sb72packet STRA 2/10/2009 1:00:00 PM
SB 72