If you're anything like me, you've probably read all 410 pages of Ohio House Bill 62, the one about the gas-tax increase.
OK, maybe not.
I bet we have something else in common, too: We both dislike having to buy and display front license plates.
It hasn't been widely reported, but tucked into those 410 pages is a provision that would do away with the requirement for Ohio vehicles to carry both front and rear plates. That part appears on Page 162. As you well know.
Here's hoping Page 162 survives the Ohio Senate, which will likely vote on the transportation bill before the end of the month.
This proposal has come up over and over again — most recently in 2017, when it failed to even make it out of a House committee. It's always shot down because of heavy lobbying by the Ohio State Highway Patrol and other law-enforcement groups. They insist they couldn't possibly do their job if vehicles didn't have front plates.
That's a bit curious, because here are some states that require only one plate:
• West Virginia.
Yep, every single state that abuts ours. Those states clearly have no regard for the safety and well-being of their law-abiding citizens. Riiiiight.
In fact, with the exception of a 70-mile stretch through Virginia, you could drive all the way from Akron to Orlando, Fla. — 1,000 miles — without going through a state that requires a front plate.
As it stands, if you're caught tooling around Akron without a front plate it will cost you $169.
Front plates are not just an aesthetic disaster but cost the state lots of money. Nuking the front plate would save about $1.7 million a year. Which would certainly fill a few potholes.
Among those hoping the measure passes are the folks who sell cars. Why?
“First of all,” says Pat Primm, owner of Cascade Auto Group in Cuyahoga Falls, “it's what our customers want. We hate drilling holes in beautiful, brand-new cars. Hate it. That's first and foremost.”
A secondary reason is that Ohio auto dealers lose money when trading cars with dealers in the surrounding states.
Says Primm, “It's $200-$300 for a front bracket for an Audi, for example. So I'm at an instant disadvantage when I'm trading. And sometimes [dealers in other states] won't take a car back from me because they know my car has holes in it.”
Here's another reason to eliminate front plates: Every year, vehicle manufacturers are adding more safety features in the form of sensors and cameras for things such as adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alerts and parking guides.
“It's getting harder and harder to put that plate in a place where it's not going to interfere with that,” Primm says.
The bill passed overwhelmingly in the House but must make its way through the Senate. That vote is likely to come by the end of the month.
One of the sponsors of the House bill is Rep. Anthony DeVitis (R-Green), whose 36th District runs from his city up through Lakemore, Mogadore and Tallmadge into Cuyahoga Falls.
DeVitis is a longtime proponent of ditching the front plate and says he is optimistic that Page 162 will survive. “We have a lot of support throughout the state,” he says.
He agrees that the most compelling argument for keeping the front plate — helping law enforcement catch bad guys — simply doesn't hold water.
“We've done some research, and our surrounding states don't seem to have the need for the front plate to do their job adequately,” DeVitis says.
“And we've reached out to the National Convention of State Legislators, and they've reported back that there's really no correlating evidence that shows having that extra plate increases the ability to police better than one-plate states.”
Car dealer Primm also thinks the policing claim is bogus. When asked whether the Highway Patrol has a legitimate concern, he replies, “If you think it's OK for them to be watching over us at every stop sign, yes. If you're not a fan of Big Brother, maybe not so much.”
DeVitis notes some irony in the situation: “In some ways, we're discriminated against in our own state” because out-of-state drivers are free to zoom through Ohio with only one plate.
“The bottom line,” says the DeVitis, “is we're an island surrounded by five states that have a one-plate requirement. We need to straighten that out.”
If you'd like to help reconnect us to the mainland, please contact your state senator and urge him or her to keep the one-plate provision in the bill. (If you don't know who your senator is, you can easily find out by going here and plugging in your address: www.ohiosenate.gov/senators .)
Your car will thank you for it.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31