In 1994, 19-year-old Palmer resident Micah Campbell lost his life in an auto accident when an oncoming vehicle crossed the double yellow line to pass another car, pulled into his lane and caused a head-on collision.
The 17-year-old driver of the oncoming vehicle survived and was given 300 hours of community service as punishment for killing Campbell and another person who was in the car.
Nine years later, Micah's mother, Nancy Campbell, is working with Palmer Republican Sen. Scott Ogan to strengthen the penalties for drivers responsible for traffic deaths. She testified Monday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a bill by Ogan that would allow a judge to revoke the driver's license of motorists who cause a crash that results in a death.
"I think it's important for the victim's family but also for the driver of the other car," Campbell said. "If there is no recompense for that kind of accident why wouldn't you go on and do it again?"
Senate Bill 53 would allow the court to revoke a driver's license for up to three years. The bill would allow the court to grant a limited license for work purposes.
Ogan did not present the bill to the committee but in a sponsor statement said: "Drivers who violate traffic laws may not have committed a crime, but if their poor driving causes the death of another person, their driving privileges should be revoked.
"Several traffic deaths occur in Alaska every year when a driver causes the death of another by poor driving, and the only consequence is a small fine. This is very difficult for the families of the victims."
Mary Moran, director of the Alaska Highway Safety Office, said that in 2000, the most recent year for which the department has data, 85.4 percent of all accidents that resulted in a fatality were due to driver error.
Ogan said in an interview that he has worked on the bill for more than six years, but has been unable to get the proposal passed. Ogan said he originally filed the bill in response to the Campbell case, but has since been approached by other families who have lost loved ones in automobile accidents.
He noted family members can take civil action against someone who causes a fatal accident but added that justice often is not served in such cases.
The committee held the bill Monday for further consideration.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.