The misguided effort to no longer require front license plates on motor vehicles in Ohio would make it more difficult to identify reckless motorists who illegally pass school buses when they stop to load and unload schoolchildren.

The American School Bus Council estimates that more than 10 million drivers illegally pass school buses annually in the U.S. Removing front license plates would make it more difficult for bus drivers and others to identify the reckless motorists who endanger Ohio’s schoolchildren by ignoring signals to stop.

“I hear about such motorists every day from our school bus drivers,” said Melody Coniglio, Director of Transportation at Kenston Local Schools in Geauga County and President of the Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation. “They aren’t just breaking the law, they are risking the lives of children.”

The Association fully supports efforts to retain two license plates on Ohio motor vehicles so that it won’t become more difficult to identify drivers who ignore school bus laws. The Association supports a recently introduced bill in the Ohio Senate to retain two license plates on each Ohio motor vehicle. Gov. Mike DeWine supports retaining the front license plate.

A provision to remove front license plates was slipped into a larger spending bill earlier this year. That bill passed, though there was little public discussion about removing front license plates. Front plates will no longer be required in Ohio as of July 1, 2020.

Another bill – dubbed the School Bus Safety Act – that was recently introduced in the Ohio Senate would increase penalties for illegally passing a school bus in Ohio.

Coniglio said that while her school district has the financial means to place cameras on school bus stop arms – thus helping identify law-breaking motorists who pass buses – many districts in Ohio can’t afford such devices. She said that is particularly true in more rural areas where buses transport the majority of students to school. And cameras have a better chance of getting at least one good image if there are two plates to record per vehicle.

“Motorists who pass a school bus when it is loading or unloading children are putting children at risk,” Coniglio said. “Removing the front license plate will simply make it harder to identify these reckless drivers and hold them accountable for their actions and will unnecessarily affect the safety of Ohio’s schoolchildren.”

Proponents of the effort to remove the front plate think the plates make their cars unattractive. Some falsely claim that the front plate interferes with censors and other technology that is located in vehicles’ front bumpers. That is false. Thirty-one states and most countries require plates in the front and back of a vehicle. The manufacturers would not make vehicles that would not be compatible with front plates.

Police from across the state continue to join the growing Keep The Front Plate, Ohio coalition. Police have said removing the front plate will make it more difficult to conduct law enforcement work and would make it harder to apprehend criminals. The coalition’s effort to retain the front plate has been endorsed by Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, the Ohio Chiefs of Police Association and more.

In 2013 and again in 2015, Ohio legislative task forces determined that front plates were needed as crime fighting tools.

Melody Coniglio is the director of transportation at Kenston Local Schools in Geauga County, a member of the growing Keep The Front Plate, Ohio! coalition and the president of the Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation.

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