By Marc Kovac
Truckers who drive big rigs down the wrong side of divided highways could face increased criminal penalties and the loss of their licenses, under legislation being considered in the Ohio Senate.
State Sen. Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd, introduced SB 235 in response to accidents in her district and others.
“We have seen many accidents and deaths occur due to a commercial vehicle driving on the wrong side of the road,” Cafaro told members of the chamber’s Criminal Justice Committee.
“According to the State Highway Patrol, these collisions, although less frequent, are much more serious and usually involve multiple vehicles. Currently, there is no penalty that keeps these dangerous drivers off the road,” she said.
SB 235, which had its initial hearing Tuesday, calls for drivers of commercial vehicles who cause injury or death to another person by driving on the wrong side of a divided highway to be charged with fourth-degree felonies. Offenders also would face mandatory license suspensions.
Cafaro distributed copies of news accounts of wrong-way accidents in Northeast Ohio, including a Vindicator article from July 2012 describing a tractor-trailer that crossed a median on Interstate 80, killing another driver.
Cafaro said holders of licenses to operate commercial motor vehicles should be held accountable for such accidents.
“These folks do this for a living, and they should know better,” Cafaro said. “We need to provide a disincentive for these individuals and hold them to a higher standard.”