A lot of people have been on vacation recently (including me), so you might have a legitimate excuse if you missed my column about front license plates.
Hordes of other readers didn’t, and most of them can’t fathom why Ohio is the only state in our region — Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky — that still requires a front plate.
Those states not only have better-looking cars, but are saving millions of dollars a year in manufacturing and shipping costs.
As I noted, Ohio hasn’t changed its two-plate requirement because every time a state legislator even hints at such a move the State Highway Patrol goes ballistic.
The patrol says that removing front plates would impair law enforcement’s ability to nab criminals and also would create a nighttime hazard because the reflectiveness of the front plate no longer would tip oncoming drivers to a disabled car or a car driving without headlights.
Funny the patrol never mentions that front plates give their laser guns a much better target when they want to ring up a mint’s worth of speeding tickets.
Among the readers who pounded my email in-box was Cuyahoga Falls native William Ferguson, who retired from the Phoenix Police Department after 20 years of service.
Ferguson says he heard the same song and dance from law-enforcement bigwigs when Arizona was moving to eliminate its front plates more than 30 years ago — a move that has been saving the state millions of dollars year after year.
Because Ferguson no longer has to answer to any bosses and does the bulk of his driving in Arizona, rather than Ohio, he is free to speak the truth without fear of personal repercussions.
“My experience has always been that law enforcement ‘officials’ are against any change in traffic laws,” he says.
“Arizona has had right-on-red for decades. I remember the uproar when Ohio changed, yet there was no increase in carnage at intersections.
“You know how the Ohio State Highway Patrol howled over the easing of 55 [mph speed limits]? Our accident rate [in Arizona] has gone down with the upping of divided-highway limits [to 75 on interstates]. We even have some non-interstates with 65.”
As the front plate issue was being debated in Arizona, Ferguson recalls, “It was, ‘Our officers won’t be able to see if an oncoming car is stolen.’ As if we had the time or inclination to run the plate of oncoming cars.
“You may pass on my info to any state legislator and point out that doing away with front plates to save money had no impact on my, or other beat cops’, abilities to make felony arrests involving vehicle descriptions, including license plate numbers, or to enforce traffic laws.”
At least one Ohio legislator doesn’t need any persuading.
Rep. Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, tried last year to show his colleagues the light but met the usual resistance. In June 2011, he introduced House Bill 107 — which the highway patrol immediately criticized.
In support of his bill, Damschroder submitted a report by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission estimating the cost savings at $1.65 million annually.
Among those savings: $726,750 for the reflective laminate, $524,500 for steel, $159,630 to print the little county stickers and $171,000 for freight.
On the other side of the ledger, the commission said, the patrol would lose fine money that normally goes into a state policing fund, but that would be “offset to some degree by eliminating the need for troopers to appear in court for contested citations” and the overall impact would be “no more than minimal.”
A Damschroder spokesman said there is “a pretty good possibility that that bill will at least get brought up for a vote in committee this fall.”
He was referring to the Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. Because Damschroder became chairman in April, his proposal might gain a bit more traction this time around.
But he’ll need to rally plenty of his colleagues. And the best way for his colleagues to see the light is for their constituents to make their views known.
Among the 13 members of the transportation committee are five from Northeast Ohio: Anthony DeVitis, R-Green; Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland; Nicholas Celebrezze, D-Parma; Robert Hagan, D-Youngstown; and Ron Young, R-Painesville.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com.