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Senate Bill 158

Ohio Right of Way Bill

By Pete Precario
OBF Board Member

Update: OBF Chair Chuck Smith and Secretary Mike Abrams testified on February 28, 2006 in support of HB 388, the companion bill to SB 158, before the Ohio House Transportation, Public Service, and Homeland Security Committee.

Some of the testimony was moving. One motorcyclist had lost her leg when struck by a motorist, but that motorist escaped with only a fine.

Another motorcyclist testified that he lost his daughter to a motorist who had crossed into her lane. He wanted the motorist to face a jury trial, but this did not happen.

Committee Chair Robert Latta said after the hearing that HB 388 will receive two more hearings before a vote takes place. 2/28/06

Over the past few months, the Ohio Bicycle Federation has been working as part of a coalition whose purpose is to help make the "right-of-way" safer for motorcycles, bicyclists, and pedestrians. The coalition, known as the Ohio Right-Of-Way Working Group, is made up of Abate of Ohio, Inc., American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), Central Ohio Bicycle Advocacy Coalition (COBAC), the Columbus Coalition of Motorcycle Riders (website), Concerned Motorcycle Riders of Ohio (CMRO), Confederation of Clubs of Ohio (COC of OH), Ohio Bicycle Federation (OBF), and Train MRO, Inc. (Website). These groups have all been working together to promote changes to Ohio law to make certain violation penalties consistent with other traffic laws and penalties.

Under current Ohio statutes, the penalty for a driver violating failure to yield right of way, assured cleared distance ahead, or marked lane statutes would be a minor misdemeanor — which includes a fine of no more than $150.00 and up to 30 hours of community service. This minor penalty applies even if the violation resulted in death or serious injury to another driver, rider, or pedestrian.

In December, 2004, the Ohio Right-Of-Way Working Group was formed to bring the penalty for these potentially serious violations more in line with other traffic violations and to hold all motor vehicle operators accountable for their actions.

In June, 2005, a draft legislative proposal submitted by the Ohio Right-Of-Way Working Group was introduced as Senate Bill 158 (SB-158). This Bill was introduced by Senator Charlie Wilson (D-Bridgeport) and co-sponsored by Senators Joy Padgett (R-Coshocton), Ray Miller (D-Columbus), Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township), Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown), C.J. Prentiss (D-Cleveland), Kimberly Zurz (D-Green), and Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo).

While SB-158 proposes a number of changes to Ohio law, it increases and enhances the penalties for a conviction of failure to yield right of way, assured clear distance ahead, or marked lane violation that results in either serious injury or death to another roadway user or pedestrian. The final penalty or fine depends upon the exact nature of the offense and the seriousness of the injury. The Bill also includes driver's rights suspension and assessment of points against the driver's license.

Significantly, SB-158 also establishes a highway traffic safety fund within the Ohio Department of Public Safety for educational purposes related to highway safety. Part of the fines collected under this Bill would be allocated to that educational fund. Hopefully, the enhanced penalties as well as the increased educational efforts will help to make the roads safer for bicyclists across the State of Ohio. The OBF and the Ohio Right-Of-Way Working Group are seeking support for SB-158 from anyone interested in promoting highway safety in Ohio. If you would like a copy of Senate Bill 158, it is available on the Ohio General Assembly Website


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