Slow down Featured

9:50am EDT July 22, 2002

Speeding twice in the same year will land you in court — and your case could even wind up in front of a jury. That may change, however, under a proposal introduced in the state legislature earlier this year to revamp Ohio’s traffic code.

Sen. Scott Oelslager (R-Canton) penned Senate Bill 176, which proposes to lessen the penalty associated with a second speeding violation in one year from a fourth-degree misdemeanor to a minor misdemeanor to avoid possible jury trial costs and the potential cost of a public defender. This is just one example of how Oelslager’s bill aims to reevaluate penalties assigned to certain violations to ensure they’re consistent with penalties for similar crimes and that they’re fitting to the crime itself.

“This legislation is simply a common-sense approach to traffic law,” Oelslager says. “Within the code are many examples where the law is extremely harsh for minor offenses and perhaps not as harsh as it should be for serious offenses.”

Other changes proposed in Senate Bill 176 include:

Assessing points on a driver’s license based solely on the speed over the limit rather than both the speed and number of convictions in a year.

Adding a license suspension for chronic speeding, defined as three or more offenses within a year.

Renaming and redefining “occupational” driving privileges for those with suspended licenses as “limited” privileges, which would also permit driving for educational, vocational and medical purposes as well as for taking a driver’s license exam, treatment or other court-ordered purposes.

Adding an automatic license suspension penalty for drivers who fail to stop after an accident.

Establishing a principle that drivers suspected of driving under the influence, but who don’t submit to chemical tests to determine blood-alcohol levels, are presumed to be under the influence.

Increasing the reinstatement fee for a license suspended for refusing to submit to a chemical test to determine blood-alcohol level.

Counting convictions from other states and under federal law as prior offenses when a driver is sentenced for operating a vehicle under the influence.

Applying criminal rather than traffic rules to felony OVIs.

Increasing the penalty for drunken vehicular homicides and making the crime easier to prove.

Creating a vehicular manslaughter misdemeanor to cover deaths from accidental traffic violations.

Increasing penalties by one degree for those involved in vehicular death crimes if the person was under a license suspension at the time or had three drunken driving convictions.

Oelslager sought input in fashioning Senate Bill 176 from the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission, municipal court practitioners, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the State Highway Patrol, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, county sheriffs, the State Bureau of Adult Detention and Families Against Negligent Drivers.

How to reach: Sen. Scott Oelslager, 466-0626

Nancy Byron (nbyron@sbnnet.com) is an editor and statehouse correspondent for SBN.