In recent months, Columbus police have stated that there have been at least five separate instances where drivers have driven the wrong-way down the roads around downtown Columbus. Of those five instances, four are believed to have involved drivers who were under the influence of either alcohol and / or drugs. In the last weekend alone, two accidents occurred involving a wrong-way driver; in one, the driver drove northbound down Interstate 71 and struck a car head-on. The other accident involved a collision downtown with a marked police cruiser. Earlier in February, an accident caused by a wrong-way driver took the life of an unborn infant, and left the other driver alive but with severe injuries.
This epidemic of wrong-way drivers has spurred local law enforcement to kick start a three-part, ten-day blitz targeting this form of reckless, illegal driving behavior. This blitz was announced by the Columbus police traffic bureau and will have a three-pronged approach. First, local officers will work in tandem with the Ohio State Highway Patrol to saturate the downtown area and freeways with high-visibility enforcement. The hope of this first prong—which runs from April 10 to April 20—is that the visual of so many police officers alone will be enough to deter drivers from going down the road on the wrong way. Local police divisions are planning on running the high-visibility patrol into the night, with the mobile breath testing vehicle deployed.
The second prong of the blitz involves an increase in training for local law enforcement from April 15 to April 19. During this time period, law enforcement officers will attend the Advanced Standardized Field Sobriety Testing course at the James G. Jackson Columbus Police Academy. On the last day of training, all of the officers will be placed onto the field during high saturation so that they can put the new skills to the test. The third prong of the blitz involves nighttime sobriety checkpoints throughout April, with details being released later.
This blitz is not the only effort in Ohio to target wrong-way driving. In fact, just last year, Ohio legislation was introduced which targeted wrong-way driving in the hopes of increasing penalties. Under this proposed bill, wrong-way drivers who either kill or injure another person would lose their license for two to ten years. If they were caught wrong-way driving more than 500 feet on a divided highway, it would be a one-year license suspension; for those who were found guilty of drunk driving while on the wrong side of the divided highway, it would be a felony with a prison sentence that ranged from six to eighteen months. Earlier this year, voting was postponed because some felt it was too extreme of a measure. Currently, wrong-way driving is a minor misdemeanor punishable with a $150 maximum fine; however, if the driver had been found guilty of another traffic violation within the year, they could be facing an increased fine and jail time.
While the state of Ohio has seen a decrease in traffic crashes in recent years, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, it has seen an increase in wrong-way crashes, with more than thirty of these types of accident taking five lives in 2011. This trend continued in 2012, which was what eventually prompted the bill to be introduced. Unfortunately, while these efforts can help increase public safety, they can catch undeserving people in the crossfire. If you have been arrested for wrong-way driving, drunk driving, or any other form of vehicular crime, you should not hesitate to reach out and contact a Columbus criminal defense lawyer from the Koffel Law Firm. For five consecutive years, we have been one of Ohio's highest ranked DUI / OVI law firms, according to Best Law Firms in America® and Best Lawyers in America®. To learn more about how we can help, or to schedule an initial case consultation, just give us a call today at 614-675-4845.