Snowmachine bill clears 1st committee

Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2002

A bill removing a requirement that people have a license to drive a snowmachine cleared its first committee this week.

The bill, approved by the House Transportation Committee on Thursday, would repeal a requirement that hasn't been enforced and that most Alaskans didn't know existed until this year.

"I don't feel that it's a necessary government function to require a license to operate a snowmachine, particularly when it's on an off-road, rural area," said committee Chairman Vic Kohring, a Wasilla Republican.

Spokesmen at the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation said earlier this year they had only recently become aware of the law. They produced a brochure listing the license requirement, which led to news coverage and caused some parents to be alarmed that their children were violating the law.

The minimum age for a driver's license in Alaska is 16. A person can get a learner's permit at 14, but the permit requires supervision by a licensed driver.

Jim Jansen of Anchorage said the current law makes outlaws out of his son, who cannot obtain a license because of epilepsy, and an 11-year-old family friend, both of whom ride with a small group in a remote mountain area.

Others, though, urged the committee to use the bill to make snowmachining safer. Nancy Hillstrand of Homer said she wrecked her truck a couple of weeks ago trying to avoid a couple of kids snowmachining "at least 80 miles an hour."

Rep. Mary Kapsner, a Bethel Democrat, said making it illegal for young people to drive snowmachines would pose a hardship for Bush families.

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