Thefifth meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation was held on<Day> Tuesday, October 7, 2003, at 1:00 PM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Virgil Moore and Representative Hubert Collins, jointly chaired the meeting. Senator Moore called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members: Senator Virgil Moore, Co-Chair; Representative Hubert Collins, Co-Chair; Senators Charlie Borders, Paul Herron Jr, Ray Jones II, Daniel Kelly, Albert Robinson, Ernesto Scorsone, Gary Tapp, and Johnny Ray Turner; Representatives Eddie Ballard, Carolyn Belcher, Denver Butler, Howard Cornett, Jodie Haydon, Paul Marcotte, Charles Miller, Russ Mobley, Lonnie Napier, Rick Nelson, Don Pasley, Marie Rader, Rick Rand, Ancel Smith, Jim Stewart, Jim Thompson, Tommy Turner, and John Vincent. Senator Bob Leeper attended the meeting via teleconference from the Crisp Center in Paducah, Kentucky.
Guests Appearing Before the Committee: Steve Blackistone, National Transportation Safety Board, Washington, D. C.; Mack Bushart, Commissioner, Department of Vehicle Regulation, and Eddie Deskins, Director, Division of Motor Vehicle Licensing, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet; Jim Adams, Resident Vice President for State Relations, CSX Railroad; and Jim Oaks, Member of the Board of Directors, R. J. Corman Railroad Group.
LRC Staff: Kathy Jones, John Snyder, Geri Grigsby, Bryan Sunderland, and Linda Hughes.
The first item on the Committee’s agenda was a discussion of safety Issues by Mr. Steve Blackistone, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Washington, D. C.
Mr. Blackistone said that NTSB is an independent Federal agency charged by Congress to investigate transportation accidents, determine their probable cause, and make recommendations to prevent their recurrence. He said NTSB has neither regulatory authority or grant funds, but in its 36-year history, organizations and government bodies have adopted more than 80 percent of its recommendations.
Mr. Blackistone said that NTSB recognized for many years that traffic crashes are one of this nation’s most serious transportation safety problems. More than 90 percent of all transportation related deaths, each year, result from highway crashes. And, with nearly 1,000 persons killed on Kentucky highways in 2002, Kentucky faces a significant problem. Mr. Blackistone said that he wanted to focus on just three of the important highway safety issues NTSB sees Kentucky facing: the alcohol-highway safety problem, the teen driving problem; and the safety of 15-passenger vans.
Mr. Blackistone said that impaired driving is one of the most often committed crimes. It kills someone in America every 30 minutes and almost 41 percent of the country’s highway deaths are alcohol-related. He said that alcohol-related fatalities, nationwide, has increased in each of the past three years, costing society over $17 billion per year. Mr. Blackistone noted that while the affected individual covers some of these costs, those not directly involved in crashes pay for nearly three-quarters of all crash costs, primarily through insurance premiums, taxes, and travel delay.
Mr. Blackistone reminded the members that the worst alcohol-related highway collision, nationwide, occurred in Carrollton, Kentucky in 1988. He said 27 Kentuckians were killed and another 34 were injured in that bus crash. He also stated that ninety minutes after the crash, the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the pick-up driver who hit the bus was 0.26 percent. He said that NTSB considers the pick-up driver a hard core drinking driver. Anyone driving with a BAC of 0.15 percent or greater is considered by NTSB to be a hard core drinking driver. Mr. Blackistone said that from 1983 through 1998, more than 137,000 people died in crashes involving hard core drinking drivers, and analysis of current fatality numbers reveals that more than 48 percent of the alcohol-related deaths involved these type drivers.
Mr. Blackistone said that most experts agree that impaired drivers persist in their behavior because they believe that they will not be caught or convicted. He said the problem of hard core drinking drivers is complex and that they require different approaches. Mr. Blackistone stated in 2000, NTSB asked states to implement a comprehensive program which would include stronger sanctions for first offenders with a high BAC, administrative license revocation, vehicle sanctions, and accurate record keeping. Mr. Blackistone said that the nation needs a comprehensive system of prevention, apprehension, sanction, and treatment to reduce the crashes, injuries, and fatalities caused by hard core drinking drivers.
Mr. Blackistone stated that high BAC offenders are likely to be repeat offenders, and are substantially more likely to be involved in fatal crashes. He said the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has estimated that the relative fatality risk for drivers in single-vehicle crashes with a high BAC is 385 times that of a zero-BAC driver and for male drivers the risk is 607 times that of a sober driver. Mr. Blackistone said that Kentucky’s law provides enhanced penalties for drivers having a BAC of 0.18 percent or greater and that NTSB would like to see Kentucky lower that level to 0.15 percent.
Mr. Blackistone stated that while Kentucky prohibits prosecutors from accepting pleas to lesser, non-alcohol-related charges, it still allows diversion for first offenders. He said diversion systems are flawed and research indicates that offenders who receive diversion recidivate faster than offenders receiving conviction and traditional sanctions. Mr. Blackistone commented that diversion programs interferr with a state’s ability to retain accurate records and a subsequent DUI conviction may not cause an individual to be identified as a repeat offender.
Mr. Blackistone said that NTSB promotes the Administrative License Revocation (ALR) which gives law enforcement officers the authority, on behalf of the state licensing agency, to confiscate the license of any driver who either fails or refuses to take a chemical breath test. Once a driver’s license has been confiscated, the driver is issued a temporary license that is valid for a short, specified period of time. During that time he or she may seek an administrative hearing to determine if the driver failed or refused to take a breath test. The driver may still face criminal proceedings, but the important thing is that that driver is off the road sooner. Mr. Blackistone stated that opponents of ALR argue that it is unconstitutional – that it denies the impaired driver due process. However, ALR has not been declared unconstitutional in any state, to the contrary, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that revocation of a license, prior to an administrative hearing is not a violation of due process as long as there are provisions for a swift post-suspension hearing.
Mr. Blackistone said that the U.S. Department of Justice conducted a study that demonstrated that states with ALR have reduced recidivism rates among drinking/driving offenders. The most startling effect was found in North Dakota where the recidivism declined by nearly 40 percent, suggesting the potential for long-term behavior modification. He said that this study is consistent with others that indicate, even though some drivers will continue to drive after revocation, they tend to drive less frequently and more cautiously. The concern that the lost driving privileges, especially in rural areas, would result in the loss of a job, prompted studies in New Mexico, Mississippi, and Delaware. He noted that in all three states, the problem was minimal. Delaware, a rural state with little public transit, revealed only 1.2 percent of those whose licenses were revoked lost their jobs. The study also revealed that loss of employment resulting from the loss of a driver’s license was unusual. Mr. Blackistone urged the Committee to take another look at administrative license revocation during the 2004 Session.
With regards to vehicle sanctions, Mr. Blackistone provided the following statistics:
· License plate impoundment reduces recidivism by 50 percent;
· Vehicle immobilization reduces recidivism by 36 percent;
· Vehicle impoundment reduces subsequent convictions by 18 to 34 percent and subsequent crashes by 25 to 34 percent;
· Vehicle forfeiture reduces crashes by 14 percent and alcohol-related fatalities by 32 percent; and
· Ignition interlocks are especially effective while they are on the vehicle and reduces recidivism by 62 to 75 percent.
Chairman Moore entertained a motion on the approval of the minutes. Co-chairman Collins moved to approve the minutes of the Committee’s September 2, 2003, meeting, as submitted. Representative Haydon seconded the motion, which passed by voice vote.