BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND HOUSING
                              Senator Jim Beall, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:          AB 643            Hearing Date:     6/23/2015
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          |Author:   |Nazarian                                              |
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          |Version:  |4/8/2015                                              |
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          |Urgency:  |No                     |Fiscal:      |Yes             |
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          |Consultant|Eric Thronson                                         |
          |:         |                                                      |
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          SUBJECT:  Emergency services:  Silver Alerts


            DIGEST:  This bill allows the California Highway Patrol (CHP),  
          upon activation of a Silver Alert, to communicate the Alert on  
          highway changeable message signs under certain conditions.

          ANALYSIS:
          
          Existing law:
          
          1)Authorizes use of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), a national  
            public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable  
            television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital  
            audio radio service providers, and direct broadcast satellite  
            providers, for "AMBER Alerts," a program designed to aid in  
            the recovery of an abducted child or an individual with a  
            proven mental or physical disability when all of the following  
            conditions have been met:  



             a)   A law enforcement agency determines that the victim is  
               in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death; and



             b)   There is information available that, if disseminated to  
               the general public, could assist in the safe recovery of  
               the victim.







          AB 643 (Nazarian)                                  Page 2 of ?
          
          



          1)Requires the CHP, in consultation with others, to develop  
            policies and procedures to instruct agencies how to carry out  
            an AMBER Alert.



          2)Authorizes use of the EAS for "Blue Alerts," a quick-response  
            system designed to issue and coordinate alerts when a law  
            enforcement officer has been killed or is seriously injured  
            and when all the following conditions have been met: 



             a)   The suspect has fled the scene and poses an imminent  
               threat to public safety;



             b)   A detailed description of the suspect's vehicle or  
               license plate is available for broadcasting; and



             c)   There is information available that, if disseminated to  
               the general public, could help avert further harm or  
               accelerate apprehension of the suspect.



          1)Establishes a "Silver Alert" notification system, designed to  
            issue and coordinate alerts if a person that is age 65 years  
            or older, developmentally disabled, or cognitively impaired is  
            missing and if the following conditions have been met:



             a)   A law enforcement agency has used all available local  
               resources to locate the missing person;



             b)   The missing person is believed to be in danger because  








          AB 643 (Nazarian)                                  Page 3 of ?
          
          
               of, for example, health or weather conditions; and



             c)   It has been determined that the public dissemination of  
               information may lead to a safe recovery of the missing  
               person. 



          1)Directs CHP, upon activation of a Silver Alert, to issue a  
            be-on-the-lookout alert, an Emergency Digital Information  
            Service message, or an electronic flyer.  As opposed to AMBER  
            and Blue alerts, existing law does not authorize use of the  
            EAS or changeable message signs for Silver Alerts.


          This bill:

          1)Allows CHP, upon activation of a Silver Alert, to communicate  
            the Alert on highway changeable message signs if the following  
            conditions are met:

             a)   A law enforcement agency determines that a vehicle may  
               be involved in the missing person incident; and

             b)   Specific vehicle identification is available for public  
               dissemination.

          COMMENTS:

          1)Purpose.  The author has introduced this measure to improve  
            the effectiveness of the Silver Alert program.  He notes that  
            Californians drive over 300 billion miles annually and,  
            consequently, have frequent exposure to changeable message  
            signs, primarily along the state's freeway corridors.  In  
            authorizing the use of these changeable message signs to  
            disseminate information regarding Silver Alerts, the author  
            hopes this exposure will lead to the safe return of missing  
            persons.

          2)Emergency alert system background.  The nation's first AMBER  
            Alert was established in 1996, and named after 9-year-old  
            Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle and  
            brutally murdered in Arlington, Texas.  The alert system was  








          AB 643 (Nazarian)                                  Page 4 of ?
          
          
            intended to help inform local residents to search for a child  
            who was abducted nearby.  AMBER is an acronym for America's  
            Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. 

            The alerts were initially issued over broadcasting channels  
            designed to alert residents of dangerous weather events, but  
            since then they have grown to include highway billboard signs,  
            text messages, and other notification methods. Although the  
            federal government does not have direct control over the  
            system, several federal agencies have urged states to  
            implement it.  The U.S. Department of Justice created an AMBER  
            Alert page, and issued guidance to states to establish  
            criteria before issuing an alert, including that the victim be  
            at risk of serious bodily injury or death, a sufficient  
            description to be informative is included, and that law  
            enforcement must confirm there was an abduction, among others.

            California began the AMBER Alert as a regional program in 1999  
            and in 2002 the Legislature passed AB 415 (Runner, Chapter  
            517), establishing it statewide.  As of February 2014, there  
            have been 219 activations in California, 255 recovered victims  
            and 131 suspects arrested.  The CHP is responsible for  
            statewide coordination of the AMBER Alert system.

            In 2010, SB 839 (Runner, Chapter 311) expanded the alert  
            system to include "Blue Alerts" which allow the CHP to  
            initiate a quick response to coordinate alerts following an  
            attack on a law enforcement officer if the officer was killed,  
            suffered serious bodily injury, or was assaulted with a deadly  
            weapon, and the suspect remains at large. 

            Finally, in 2012 the Legislature established the Silver Alert  
            program through SB 1047 (Alquist, Chapter 651) to coordinate  
            communication after the unexplained or suspicious  
            disappearance of an elderly person.  The system is intended to  
            provide immediate attention to the public about the missing  
            person, including photographs, descriptions and information  
            about the last time and location they were seen.  The  
            Legislature has since expanded the program to include any  
            developmentally disabled or cognitively impaired individual  
            that otherwise meets the requirements, regardless of the  
            person's age.

          3)Distracted driving concerns.  A variety of constituencies have  
            conducted distracted driving studies focused on a number of  








          AB 643 (Nazarian)                                  Page 5 of ?
          
          
            potential distractions.  There are studies that use data to  
            prove illuminated billboards do not lead to negative outcomes,  
            and other studies that refute these conclusions.  Nearly all  
            studies admit that, in most instances, it is very difficult to  
            identify one single factor that led to an adverse incident  
            such as an automobile accident.  Research tends to show that  
            accidents arise from an accumulation of factors, including  
            distractions in the vehicle and outside, weather conditions,  
            and even distracting thoughts within the driver's mind.

            It is clear, however, that billboards by their very nature  
            capture a driver's attention.  Advertising is intended to  
            communicate a message to the recipient, which requires some  
            attention.  One recent study of driver behavior conducted by  
            the Accident Research Center at Monash University concluded  
            that, "the presence of billboards changed drivers' pattern of  
            visual attention, increased the amount of time needed for  
            drivers to respond to road signs, and increased the number of  
            errors in the driving task."  Other studies using naturalistic  
            driving data have found that, of all the various distractions  
            contributing to poor driving outcomes, visual distraction is  
            the primary concern in driver distraction.  

            This bill proposes that the state use its digital billboards  
            to advertise to the public an alert.  While illuminated  
            billboards may not by themselves lead to adverse safety  
            impacts, it is clear that they contribute to the multiple  
            distractions drivers navigate each day.  Adding distractions,  
            especially ones that are particularly effective at drawing  
            one's attention, can only increase the risk of negative  
            outcomes.  The question is not whether these alerts on the  
            state's changeable message signs cause accidents and other  
            negative consequences, but how many distractions are enough to  
            create an environment potentially too risky and dangerous for  
            people traveling from one place to another.  

          4)Diluting the message?  In 2014 the Legislature passed AB 47  
            (Gatto), which proposed to create a "Yellow Alert" system for  
            hit-and-run accidents.  Though AB 47 passed with bipartisan  
            support, it was vetoed by the Governor.  In his veto message,  
            Governor Brown noted that since the Legislature had just added  
            a new class of individuals to the existing alert system with  
            SB 1127 (Torres, Chapter 440, Statutes of 2014), adding yet  
            another category (hit-and-run suspects) could overload the  
            alert system, thereby diluting its effectiveness.  Further, in  








          AB 643 (Nazarian)                                  Page 6 of ?
          
          
            a letter opposing AB 8 (Gatto), a bill identical to AB 47 of  
            2014, CHP raises this concern again this year.  The committee  
            should consider carefully the warning CHP is giving about  
            desensitizing the public to the important alerts on the  
            state's changeable message signs by overloading the alert  
            system.  As the CHP points out, the success of AMBER Alerts is  
            partially a result of their scarcity.  By adding another type  
            of alert to the changeable message signs, is the Legislature  
            reducing the effectiveness of existing alerts?
          
          Related Legislation:
          
          AB 8 (Gatto) - authorizes CHP to assist other law enforcement  
          agencies in investigating certain hit-and-run incidents by  
          issuing a "Yellow Alert" via a local digital sign.  This bill is  
          also being heard in this committee today.


          AB 400 (Alejo) - authorizes the use of changeable message signs  
          for voter registration and Election Day reminders.  This bill is  
          also being heard in this committee today.


          AB 47 (Gatto, Statutes of 2014) - was identical to this  
          session's AB 8, and was vetoed by Governor Brown.  The Governor  
          pointed out in his veto message that expansion of the system  
          should be tested before other categories of individuals are  
          added.

          SB 1127 (Torres, Chapter 440, Statutes of 2014) - included a  
          missing person who is developmentally disabled or cognitively  
          impaired among persons who may be the subject of a Silver Alert.

          SB 1047 (Alquist, Chapter 651, Statutes of 2012) - established  
          California's Silver Alert System.

          SB 839 (Runner, Chapter 311, Statutes of 2010) - established  
          California's Blue Alert System.

          Assembly Votes:

            Floor:         76-0
            Appr:          17-0
            Aging<C:       7-0
            Trans:         15-0








          AB 643 (Nazarian)                                  Page 7 of ?
          
          
          
          FISCAL EFFECT:  Appropriation:  No    Fiscal Com.:  Yes     
          Local:  No


            POSITIONS:  (Communicated to the committee before noon on  
          Wednesday,
                          June 17, 2015.)
          
            


          SUPPORT:  

          Alzheimer's Association
          American Silver Alert Coalition
          Association of Regional Center Agencies
          California Assisted Living Association
          California College and University Police Chiefs Association
          California Police Chiefs Association
          California Senior Legislature
          Center for Autism and Related Disorders
          Congress of California Seniors
          County of Marin
          County of San Diego
          North Los Angeles County Regional Center
          State Council on Developmental Disabilities
          The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy California Collaboration
          The Help Group

          OPPOSITION:

          None received


                                      -- END --