Four statewide school associations and a union representing school bus drivers Thursday called on Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof and his colleagues to move quickly to keep the front license plate on Ohio vehicles. The front plate, they say, is a key way for bus drivers to identify the rapidly growing volume of reckless motorists who fail to stop for school buses when children are getting on or off.
 
They asked for passage of Senate Bill 179, which would retain the front plate. 
 
The state last year as part of the gas tax bill passed a provision that would no longer require front plates on vehicles in Ohio starting in July 2020.



“That was a mistake we should not have to live with,’’ said Jim Rowan, Executive Director for the Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBO). “Senate Bill 179 would rescind that change, and that bill is supported by multiple school groups, including OASBO.”
 
Kevin Miller, from the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, which represents school superintendents throughout the state, said many Ohio communities are experiencing increasing numbers of drivers illegally speeding past stopped buses with children getting on and off. 
 
“It’s up to bus drivers and police to identify motorists breaking bus safety laws,’’ said Miller, Director of Government Relations at the association. “Some better financed districts can afford to have cameras on the outside of buses, which helps. But many school districts don’t have the money to pay for this. So it’s up to the bus drivers to get the license plate numbers of vehicles blasting by, and we need the front plate to do our part.”
 
In fact, a one-day survey organized by the Ohio School Boards Association last March showed that 73 percent of buses that were illegally passed were done so by vehicles approaching the bus from the front.

“And the number of buses passed in that one day was staggering,’’ said Will Schwartz, Deputy Director of Legislative Services at the school boards group. “Of the 183 districts that returned the survey, they recorded that more than 1,500 buses were illegally passed. At that rate, Ohio would have 4,500 buses illegally passed each day.’’
 
Melody Coniglio, President of the Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation, said “Ohio schoolchildren are increasingly placed in harm’s way due to the escalation of vehicles that don’t stop for school buses. Please don’t remove an essential tool bus drivers have for identifying reckless motorists. By removing the front plate, Ohio will significantly reduce bus drivers’ ability to identify careless motorists who are putting the lives of children at risk.’’
 
A driver for Fairland Local Schools agreed. “I drive a rural route with narrow roads,’’ said Barbara Ward, a 39-year bus driver who is represented by OAPSE/AFSCME. “More than once, I’ve seen a driver fail to stop when I have my flashing lights on and just pass the bus with children crossing the street. Because of the front license plate law, I was able to report the driver for reckless behavior that could have injured or killed a child. Please don’t do away with the front license plate.”
 
Coniglio said that the safety of school children is more important than car enthusiasts who say the front plate damages the appearance of their cars: “Seriously, why would anyone consider that a legitimate reason to remove the front plate? Public safety — our children’s safety — should be the top concern of our legislators and state leaders.’’