Ohio governor signs teen driving bill

| Wednesday, January 10, 2007

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.

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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 reported.

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.

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