It’s time for Ohio lawmakers to put the idea of ditching front license plates to rest.
For the second time in the last two years, a state legislative task force last week recommended keeping front license plates. Ohio is one of 31 states that still require front and rear license plates, while the other 19 — including all of Ohio’s border states — require just rear plates.
In the past, way back in 2013, the inquiry has been prompted by costs — it is estimated just printing rear plates could save Ohio more $1.5 million annually. But it is doubtful those savings would be passed onto Ohio drivers through a reduction in annual plate fees.
This year’s look into the question, however, was prompted by something even more serious than spending. The panel was tasked to consider the question after a July incident in which a campus police officer shot a motorist he pulled over for not having a front plate. That officer is facing murder charges.
While a police incident sparked the review, law enforcement remains one of the most steadfast supporters of the front plate. Among the arguments law enforcement cites is that cameras help catch front plates in robberies, drive-offs and other crimes and, in general, the front plate allows law enforcement officers or witnesses a second chance to identify cars fleeing the scene of a crime or accident or suspected drunk drivers. Officers also say it helps school bus drivers identify cars that illegally pass buses.
While there might be some merit to saving the state money, given the overwhelming support of law enforcement, the relatively small amount of savings in the grand scheme of things and the likelihood little of that savings would actually end up back in taxpayers pockets, Ohio is right to hang on to the two-plate system. Without a truly compelling reason to change, lawmakers are spending a lot of time and energy exploring an issue that seems settled. We hope, without some compelling new evidence, we’re not having this same debate again in 2017.