By Marc Kovac
Drivers who ignore warning signs and pull their vehicles onto flooded roadways could face increased fines under legislation approved by the Ohio Senate on Wednesday.
SB 106 passed on a vote of 32-0 and heads to the Ohio House for further consideration.
The bill would prohibit vehicles on roads that are clearly marked as closed due to rising waters. It would institute up to $2,000 in fines for drivers who get stuck on flooded roadways and require assistance from emergency responders.
Perpetrators also would face misdemeanor charges and would be required to appear before a judge to explain their actions.
The bill was prompted, in part, by a 2006 incident in Lorain County in which a teenage driver ignored warning signs and drove onto a bridge covered with rising water. Rescuers were able to save the lives of the driver and a passenger, but one of the emergency responders died during the rescue.
“There are, unfortunately, too many cases of people ignoring these signs and endangering themselves, their property and certainly their rescuers,” said Sen. Tim Schaffer of Lancaster, R-31st, primary sponsor of the bill. “When a potential violator ignores these signs, more often than not they are stranded in the middle of a flooded road. They call for help ... and the fire department must come out and attempt the rescue.”