DUI license plates step in right direction

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

Through Senate Bill 123, the state of Ohio is ringing in the new year with stricter traffic offense penalties, particularly those offenses associated with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Touted as the most sweeping reform of traffic law in the state's history, Senate Bill 123, which went into effect Jan. 1, will not have much of an impact on

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law enforcement, but it will change how the court systems deal with traffic offenders.

Part of the new state law requires all drivers convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but granted limited driving privileges by a judge, to display on their vehicles special yellow license plates with red numbers. Convicted drunken drivers will have to use the yellow and red plates until all their driving privileges are restored. That provision is expected to be amended soon to allow exceptions for first-time offenders.

Those convicted of driving under the influence in Ohio are either sentenced to jail time or court-ordered driver intervention programs. Their license is suspended, but most of the time judges allow some driving privileges so offenders can drive to and from work.

The courts have had the discretion to use the

DUI plates since 1967, but few have. Now, they have no choice - the

plates are mandatory.

The restricted plates alone won't stop drinking and driving altogether, but combined with strict law enforcement and heightened community awareness, it is a step in the right direction.

We feel this law is a good thing, not so much that it humiliates drunken drivers, but more so because it alerts motorists to at-risk drunk drivers and, consequently, will cause many of them to drive with more caution.

However, the embarrassment the DUI offenders will encounter is a small price to pay for them choosing to risk their own life and the lives of others with irresponsible behavior. We salute our lawmakers for stiffening the punishment of DUI offenders and encourage them to look at other ways to reduce the number of offenses.