June is National Safety Month, and organizations across the country will be participating in events to bring attention to critical safety issues that affect us all. Because the summer months are a time of increased travel on our roads and highways as families head out on vacation and other excursions, special attention is being paid this year to safety issues such as using cell phones while driving and watching out for motorcycles.
Here in the Senate, my colleagues and I are also concerned about the safety of those traveling on Ohio’s roads, and we recently passed a bill that will help keep them safe for both motorists and public safety personnel. Senate Bill 166 would give firefighters, EMS responders and other emergency workers the ability to report traffic law violations under certain circumstances.
The idea for SB 166 came about after one of my colleagues, Senator Jim Hughes (R- Columbus), learned from some of his local first responders about the increasing number of traffic violations they encounter while they are responding to the scene of an accident or other emergency. This costs police and fire personnel precious time that could be used to provide care to accident victims or get control of a fire. Drivers that do not yield the right-of-way can even cause accidents between cars and fire or EMS vehicles.
Under SB 166, emergency personnel who witness traffic violations during the course of their duties would report the violator’s license plate number and a general description of the person and vehicle to the local law enforcement agency. If law enforcement can establish the identity of the vehicle operator, then the license plate number shall establish probable cause for the agency to issue a citation. In cases where the operator of the vehicle cannot be determined, a warning would be issued.
Ohio law currently permits school bus drivers to report cars that refuse to stop when the bus is stationary and has its lights and stop sign activated. SB 166 would extend this authority to safety personnel, helping to raise awareness of the importance of yielding to emergency vehicles when they are responding to an accident or other emergency and encourage drivers to take appropriate steps to keep our roads safe. SB 166 was passed by the Senate last month and is currently under consideration in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or concerns about any state-related matter. You can reach my office by phone at (614) 466-9737, by e-mail at SD07@senate.state.oh.us or by writing State Senator Shannon Jones, Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215. I look forward to hearing from you.