So, you’re driving down the highway in Butler County, Warren County, Hamilton County, or any Ohio county, minding your own business, keeping a weather-eye out for the local constabulary, when you spy down the highway, a good half-mile away, a state trooper - lights flashing. Surely, he must already have a paying customer in his sights. You adjust your speed accordingly and prepare to gape at the poor schmuck that had the misfortune to run into such horrible luck on such a beautiful, cloudless day. When, seemingly suddenly, the very same state trooper is pointing at you! And motioning for you to pull over to the side of the road! He can’t mean ME?!? Can he???
Well, of course he means you - and of course you’re suddenly the poor schmuck who has run into such rotten luck on such a suddenly gloomy, (but cloudless) day. But how could this happen? You saw him coming, literally, a half-mile away!
Unfortunately, you’ve been nabbed by a not so infrequently used sting operation involving the aircraft section of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, with the assistance of a traditionally marked Ohio State Trooper Vehicle unit. Operations such as these have been used by the Ohio Highway Patrol for decades, but because they are so insidious, you probably haven’t been particularly aware of their existence – unless you happen to be one of the unfortunates who come in their crosshairs.
The operation works using two time-honored concepts – mathematics and stopwatches. Not your grandfather’s traditional stopwatch (now we’re in the digital age), but instruments of measurement that do the hard math for the officer. Next time you drive on the highway, pay careful attention to the outside lane of the highway. If you’re observant, you may notice a series of five lines, about the width of a parking space line, but only about three to five feet long. It is these series of lines that let you know that you are in an air speed zone. And if you see these markings, be aware that on a clear day, you may run the risk of falling victim to this slightly more sophisticated speed trap. The five white lines are exactly 1,320 feet apart or one-quarter mile apart. By using his digital stopwatch, a pilot trooper can calculate the speed of your vehicle by recording the time it takes your vehicle to cross each white line.
Upon determining that a vehicle is speeding, the pilot trooper radios down to his companion in the patrol car who is stationed about a half-mile past the last white line. He describes the vehicle and confirms with the vehicle trooper that he has identified and stopped the correct vehicle. From there a ticket is issued and you are on your way to paying a fine and potentially incurring points on your driver’s license.
If you find yourself in a traffic situation such as this, speak to an attorney to see how best to deal with the circumstance. The attorney may have some ideas to improve the outcome for you – beyond just paying out the ticket.
During a typical commute, it is not uncommon to see other drivers texting, putting on makeup, talking on a phone, playing air guitar, shaving, or some other form of distracted behavior. We all are guilty of some form of this; however, a little-known law just went into effect in Ohio that is cracking down on such behavior.
Ohio House Bill 95 went into effect October 29, 2018. This law enhances moving violations where law enforcement officers determine: (1) an offense occurred; (2) the driver was distracted at the time; and (3) this distraction was a contributing factor to the offense. If the officer determines this, then you can expect an additional $100 on your citation or a seat in a distracted driver safety course.
“Distracted” is defined as “engaging in any activity that is not necessary to the operation of a vehicle and impairs, or reasonably would be expected to impair, the ability of the operator to drive the vehicle safely.” That’s pretty broad, so let’s look at how the Ohio State Highway Patrol defined distracted driving in a Traffic Safety Bulletin from last year: “Distractions include: texting or talking on a cellphone, talking to passengers, eating, adjusting the radio, using a navigation system, etc.”
It is time for an example. You are cruising down the street eating a cheeseburger and you switch lanes without using your turn signal. An officer pulls you over and he sees the ketchup on the corner of your mouth plus the empty whopper wrapper next you on the passenger seat. Using superior Sherlock Holmes like deduction, the officer is going to determine that you were distracted when you failed to use your turn signal and is going to tack on an extra $100 on your citation. So that $1.99 Whopper now costs you $101.99 or lost time out of your life taking a distracted driver safety course. For your pocketbook, and the safety of all of us, it’s probably best to wait to dig into that whopper.
This information is intended to provide broad, general information about the law and is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney. For further information, please contact Jesse Bowman at the law office of Alexander, Wagner & Kinman (513) 228-1100 or Jesse@AWKLegal.com.
Attorneys Jesse Bowman; Max Kinman; Chris Alexander: David Wagner