The Dayton Daily News ran a story recently, revealing that a quarter of the driver’s license suspensions in Ohio are the result of offenses that have nothing to do with driving a motor vehicle. In fact while 39 percent of the 9.9 million suspensions that took place between 2006 and 2009, were for drivers who were uninsured, and another 36 percent were for driving-related incidents, the rest had nothing to do with driving infractions at all.
So, what were the suspensions for? Well, roughly 616,000 of them were for people who didn’t pay child support, according to data from the Ohio department of Public Safety.
According to Montgomery County Sheriff Phillip Plummer, “The intent of license suspensions was to get bad drivers off the road. But there are so many sanctions now, some of them counterproductive.”
Ohio has forty-six categories of license suspensions. In the most recent year for which data exists, 2009, more than 2.6 million suspensions were issued, out of 7 million licensed drivers, and according to Vandalia Police Chief Douglas Knight, some of those drivers have more than one suspension.
“It’s not uncommon for them to say to the officer that they knew they’d let their insurance lapse or knew they hadn’t paid their reinstatement fees because they just didn’t have the money,” Knight said.
Judges say the high number of suspensions is adversely impacting the work of the courts.
Clermont County Municipal Judge Jim Shriver, who is also president of the Association of Municipal/County Court Judges, said that his group wants to help redesign suspension laws, and is willing to work with the state legislature to do so. “These cases are taking a considerable amount of time that could be devoted to more serious criminal offenders,” he said.
Another judge, Dayton Municipal Presiding Judge John Pickrel, made the suggestion that judges be allowed to order motorists with significant fines, court costs, and reinstatement fees to put a payment plan in place, do community service, or have severely limited driving privileges.
And state Senator Peggy Lehner (R – Kettering) also weighed in, saying, “You have people who are really dangerous drivers, who are a threat to us all by being on the road, and then you have those people who are caught up in this whole tangled web of license suspension, can’t afford to pay the fines, so they keep on driving, then they get another one because they get picked up for maybe running a stop sign. And these things mount and mount and mount.”