Rocky River officials are determined to crack down on careless drivers.
City Council is considering legislation that reclassifies reckless operation from a minor misdemeanor to a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Drivers cited could face up to $250 in fines and a maximum of 30 days in jail.
Introduced by Councilman Thomas Hunt, the law will also increase the charge for repeated violations within a year, making the offense a second-degree misdemeanor.
“Reckless operation is a violation of the law that could have huge safety consequences to those involved,” Law Director Andy Bemer said. “This is something that’s beyond the scope of negligence and there’s a likelihood that you will cause a serious accident. So we felt that the punishment should really be enhanced to match the offense.”
Bemer hopes the law will increase awareness about what drivers are doing and deter them from making risky decisions.
The change follows legislation council adopted last month that reclassified passing a stopped school bus from a minor misdemeanor to a first-degree misdemeanor. A minor misdemeanor carries no jail time and a penalty up to $150 dollars, now that it’s been re-classified as a first -degree misdemeanor, offenders could be fined up to $1,000 and face 6 months in jail. The law went into effect at the start of this month.
The legislation was inspired by a bill in the Ohio General Assembly, titled Senate Bill 134, that would reclassify the offense statewide. While it did not pass communities have adopted laws locally that mirror the bill like Rocky River, Avon Lake and North Olmsted.
Both changes were a reaction to an incident that happened on Oct. 30 after a driver illegally passed a school bus, nearly hitting a crossing guard and children walking across the street, according to Bemer.
Police cited Rocky River resident Cali Lynch for passing a stopped school bus on Lakeview Avenue. Lynch, 28, told police she thought the vehicle was in a bus lane and said she did not see its stop sign out when she passed.
On Jan. 9, Lynch pleaded guilty to reckless operation and paid a total of $191.36. She paid $122.36 in court fees, $44 for state court costs and a $25 fine. While she wasn’t given jail time, four points were added to her license.
Last year Rocky River police cited 19 people for reckless operation, according to information provided by the department.
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