The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

February 2, 2011

Ashtabula man facing 48th driving conviction

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Red and blue flashing lights in the rear-view mirror are a common sight for an Ashtabula man, the Ohio State Highway Patrol reports, and a recent seat-belt violation brings Christopher Mills’ record to 47 driving convictions in 12 years.

OHP Trooper Jared Klingensmith spotted Mills driving without his safety belt last week in Saybrook Township, prompting state patrol dispatchers to look up Mills’ driving record.

“He is valid now,” the dispatcher said over the radio, “but he has 47 — that’s four seven — priors.”

Mills, 28, was cited for the seat-belt violation and will appear for arraignment in Ashtabula Municipal Court on Feb. 9, court records show.

OHP Lt. Jerad Sutton said Mills has 19 convictions for speeding; 11 seat-belt convictions, plus the current citation; four charges of operating a vehicle without a driver’s license; two convictions for driving while under suspension; one reckless operation citation “and 10 other miscellaneous charges.”

He has had his driver’s license suspended 14 times, Sutton reports.

Mills also pleaded not guilty in Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court in September to two charges of carrying a concealed weapon, court records show, and will pay $96 if found guilty of his 12th seat-belt violation.

Mills could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Sutton said he isn’t sure the average number of seat-belt violations a person might get in a lifetime “but 19 speed violations is a lot,” he said.

Sutton said seat belts save more than 13,000 lives every year.

“One of them could be yours,” he said. “Buckling up is the single most-effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.”

Troopers write citations as a way to curb poor or unsafe driving, Sutton said.

“The Highway Patrol makes traffic stops for a variety of violations. The goal of our enforcement efforts is voluntary compliance through high visibility,” he said.

Sutton said citations and charges are a way “to modify a driving behavior.”

“This is achieved through warnings, defect notifications and traffic citations,” he said. “When the traffic stop is complete, hopefully our goal was accomplished.”

Troopers can write citations all day, every day, Sutton said, but offending drivers have to change for the roads to stay safe.

“Driving behavior lies in the hands of the person behind the wheel,” he said. “In some cases, no matter how many traffic citations that are issued to a driver, they make the choice to continue poor driving habits.”

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