Bill could help drunks get home safely

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Drunken drivers and their vehicles could get a ride home if a bill that passed the House on Tuesday has its intended effect.

State Rep. Norm Rokeberg, an Anchorage Republican, introduced the bill, which limits liability for taxis transporting drunken drivers' cars. He said he's trying to clear the way for an Anchorage program called "Off the Road" to get off the ground.

The Downtown Licensed Beverage Association, the Downtown Partnership and corporate sponsors have pitched in to fund the program, which would pay for cab drivers to take both an individual and his or her car home from participating downtown bars, Rokeberg said.

The program should remove one obstacle that prevents drunken drivers from giving up their keys, Rokeberg said.

"Many drivers are really reluctant to leave their dearest possession, sometimes their vehicle, in a parking lot," Rokeberg said.

Often they need their car to get to work the next day, they worry about vandalism or they fear it will be towed, he said.

High insurance costs have kept the "Off the Road" program from starting, Rokeberg said. He said insurance would have cost taxi companies $1,000 per month per cab.

The bill exempts cab drivers operating the drunken drivers' vehicle from liability in an accident except in cases of gross negligence or reckless or intentional misconduct.

The vehicle's owner's insurance would still have to pay for damages in an accident, the same as if the owner had been driving.

Rep. Eric Croft, an Anchorage Democrat, said that provision removed his concern about the bill. Without it, he said, he had feared accident victims would have no recourse.

The bill passed the House 37-0. Rep. John Davies, a Fairbanks Democrat, gave notice of reconsideration of his vote, so the measure could come up for a final vote on Wednesday. After that, it would go to the Senate.

The measure is House Bill 68.

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