The Ohio Legislature wrapped up its 2006 session late last
month but not before sending Gov. Bob Taft a bill intended to make roadways
safer. Other safety related bills weren't as fortunate, including one that
would have hiked "trucker bomb" fines to $1,000.
The governor signed a bill Jan. 4 restricting when teens can
be behind the wheel and how many people can be in vehicles with them.
The new law, previously HB343, restricts nighttime driving
for teens under age 18 and for teens under age 17 limits to one the number of
passengers who are not family members. It also requires teens under age 17 to
drive with parents or guardians for six months if ticketed for moving
violations in the first six months behind the wheel.
Driving between midnight and 6 a.m. will be prohibited for
teens under age 17. Most teens under 18 will be prohibited from driving between
1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
The new law takes effect in April.
One of the bills that didn't make it out of the Legislature
sought to allow for harsher penalties when cell-phone use causes a crash.
Sponsored by Sen. Gary Cates, R-West Chester, the bill would
have authorized drivers to be charged with vehicular assault or aggravated
vehicular homicide - both felonies - if prosecutors believe phone use contributed
or caused a crash, The Associated Press
The bill - SB317 - remained in the Senate Judiciary Criminal
Justice Committee when the session ended.
Cates' bill wasn't the only effort in the Legislature to
address cell phone use in vehicles. Bills in the House and Senate sought to ban
hand-held cell-phone use while driving. Emergency phone calls and talking on a
"hands-free" device would still have been permitted.
One other bill, while not directly related to highway
safety, was 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 called
for hiking the fine for tossing containers of human waste along highways in the
state to $1,000 from the current $150. Repeat offenders would have faced
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 - remained in the Senate Environment and
Natural Resources Committee.