As state legislators in Ohio ready for the fall elections
and try to make a good final impression for voters, several bills intended to
make roadways safer remain under consideration in the statehouse.
One bill would impose restrictions on the use of automated
cameras at intersections throughout the state. The changes could affect several
Sponsored by Rep. Jim Raussen, R-Springfield, the bill would
effectively ban cameras in the state used to catch speeders and reduce the
amount of control local jurisdictions have on the operation of red-light
The bill initially called for an outright ban of red-light
cameras. The provision has since been deleted and in its place is language to
remove some of the profit incentives to use the devices.
As currently written, the measure prohibits the use of speed
cameras, which currently are operated entirely at the discretion of local
authorities. Police officers would be required to witness speeding violations
and personally issue tickets to the offending drivers at the time of the
It also ends the practice of paying camera vendors a portion
of the fine amount. Instead, vendors would receive flat-rate contracts.
Opponents say provisions included in the bill would make the
program too expensive and would force cities to contemplate scaling back camera
Supporters say the changes would alleviate concerns that the
devices are being used primarily as a revenue generator for cities and other
Raussen said studies have also indicated the cameras do not
A study paid for by the U.S. Department of Transportation
showed rear-end crashes actually increased in cities with red-light cameras, as
motorists stopped abruptly at yellow lights to avoid tickets.
A provision in the bill is intended to address concerns that
the cameras do more harm than good. It would require that if, after 24 months,
accidents don’t decrease at intersections with the cameras, they must be
Raussen’s bill – HB56 – is awaiting consideration on the
Senate floor. If approved there, the bill would head back to the House for a
final vote before moving to Gov. Bob Taft’s desk.
Another bill would allow for harsher penalties when
cell-phone use causes a crash.
Sponsored by Sen. Gary Cates, R-West Chester, the bill would
authorize drivers to be charged with vehicular assault or aggravated vehicular
homicide – both felonies – if prosecutors believe phone use contributed to or
caused a crash, The Associated Press reported.
The bill – SB317 – is in the Senate Judiciary Criminal
Cates’ bill isn’t the only effort in the Ohio Legislature to
address cell phone use in vehicles. Bills in the House and Senate would ban
hand-held cell-phone use while driving. Emergency phone calls and talking on a
“hands-free” device would still be permitted.
separate bill would restrict when a teen can be behind the wheel and how many
people can be in the vehicle with them.
by Rep. Tom Raga, R-Deerfield, the bill would restrict driving for those under
age 18 with a temporary instruction permit. It would outlaw driving between
midnight and 6 a.m. – a restriction now in place for those 17 and under.
probationary driver’s licenses between 17 and 18 years old would be prohibited
from driving between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Probationary license holders are
exempted from the time restrictions if they are accompanied by a parent or
The bill also
would forbid drivers under 17 from having more than one passenger who is not a
House-approved bill – HB343 – is awaiting assignment to a committee in the
other bill, while not directly related to highway safety, is intended to help
deter some people from making the state’s roadways their own personal bathroom.
Sen. Kimberly Zurz, D-Green, introduced the bill that would
hike the fine for tossing containers of human waste along highways in the state
to $1,000 from the current $150. Repeat offenders would face increasing fines
and possible suspension of driving privileges for 90 days.
Zurz said she was prompted to pursue the higher fines in Ohio after a state Transportation Department study found that nearly 1 million containers
of urine are dumped annually along roads in the state.
The bill – SB306 – is in the Senate Environment and Natural