Ohio bill would permit headlight flashing by vehicles

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, April 17, 2014

If an Ohio state lawmaker gets his way, a driver courtesy could soon be protected under state law. Also under consideration at the statehouse are two bills that cover drivers who ignore “road closed” signs and electronic proof of vehicle insurance.

Rep. John Becker, R-Union Township, introduced a bill that would help to curtail speed traps in the state. Specifically, the bill would allow travelers to flash headlights or use high beams to warn drivers about what is ahead.

Ohio law doesn’t prohibit the practice but Becker wants to make sure that flashing lights to warn others is not illegal. His bill would clarify that drivers could not be cited and fined for alerting other travelers about police or traffic hazards.

Becker referred to a driver in Ellisville, Mo., who was fined $1,000 for flashing his headlights to alert drivers about police stationed ahead. A federal judge later sided with the man, ruling that flashing headlights to warn drivers was protected speech.

“This bill would protect Ohioans from being prosecuted for sharing valuable information with fellow drivers, such as regarding accidents, deer in the road and speed traps,” Becker said in written remarks.

The bill, HB475, is in the House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

The committee already approved a separate bill that is intended to deter certain travelers from a bad driving decision.

Sponsored by Sen. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, the bill would fine travelers who ignore “road closed” signage and drive through flooded areas during and after storms.

Violators would face fines up to $2,000 to cover the tab for any rescue or recovery that is necessary.

Schaffer said the bill would improve safety for both first responders and the motorists who often need to be rescued.

“Unnecessary rescue missions are dangerous and a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Schaffer stated. “This will help to prevent the need for risky rescue missions before they happen.”

SB106 awaits consideration on the House floor. If approved there, it would move to the governor’s desk. The Senate already approved it by unanimous consent.

One more bill in the Senate Transportation Committee would allow drivers to provide law enforcement officers with electronic proof of insurance on smartphones and other similar devices. Drivers would no longer be required to have the traditional paper proof of insurance to avoid a ticket.

Sen. Edna Brown, D-Toledo, said the bill is “a simple, common-sense way” for the state to take advantage of technology.

SB255 specifies that law enforcement would be relieved from any liability for damage to an electronic device when it’s presented as proof of insurance. However, police would be forbidden from accessing any other information on the electronic device.

The option for digital proof of insurance is growing in popularity. More and more insurance companies offer apps for customers to download on electronic devices.

According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, 31 states have adopted the policy.

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