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What do you think of Ohio’s red-and-yellow license plates for drunk drivers?

It’s been compared by both supporters and opponents to Nathanial Hawthorne’s classic tale of Puritan shaming, “The Scarlet Letter,” but Ohio’s revamped drunk driving policy is hammering home the point that the state means business when it comes to DUI (Driving Under the Influence) enforcement.

In January of 2004, legislators vastly overhauled the state’s traffic code. Among the changes: “restricted plates” for DUI offenders who have been granted limited driving privileges, issued sparingly for almost four decades, would now be mandatory in drunk driving convictions. The catch is that the tags feature bright red letters and numbers on a yellow background, clearly identifying the motorist as a convicted drunk driver. Proponents feel it is reasonable punishment; those with the tags feel it gives them a rough six months on the road.

Reintroducing The Scarlet Plate

The restricted plates, also known as “DUI plates” and “family plates,” were first introduced in Ohio in 1967. Though drunk driving convictions result in license suspension periods lasting up to a year, motorists can file an appeal – if they need their vehicle to get to work, for example – and receive limited driving privileges. Up until 2004, judges were given the choice whether or not to issue the yellow-and-red tags as well. Most didn’t.

With the state government cracking down on drunk-driving fatalities and a perceived “ineffective” means of DUI enforcement, the administration in 2003 made the plates mandatory as part of a sweeping bill that overhauled Ohio traffic laws. The changes went into effect Jan. 1, 2004.

“[These plates] are a magnet for highway patrol,” Pickwick County municipal judge John Adkins told the Toledo Blade in 2003 just after the measure passed. Adkins, who helped draft the “Scarlet Plates” law, was one of the few judges who did regularly issue the tags and felt they produced a positive result when implemented.

“We tell people who have to use them that law-enforcement officers will be looking all over your car,” he said. “The highway patrol tells me these people with the plates drive right down the center of the lane going 55 mph.”

Enforcement effects

In their first two years they were mandatory, the plates received a vast implementation.

According to a report in the Columbus Dispatch, holders of restricted plates jumped from 1,450 in 2003 to 10,835 in 2004. After six months, the law was adjusted so the plates would be issued beginning with the second offense, or if the offender had a blood alcohol content higher than .17 (the legal limit for drunk drivers is .08) the first time around.

Adkins feels it’s too soon to measure how effective the law has been, but nevertheless, there were 5,270 restricted plates issued last year — 5,000 fewer than in the first year of the program. Drivers can replace them with regular tags after their suspension term ends, usually some time between six months and a year.

Driver downsides

However, many motorists stuck with the plates feel those six months are unduly difficult and raise privacy concerns.

In a Columbus Dispatch story, Lester Compton called the plates “embarrassing” and said at best he has been jeered, at worst he has lost a couple of jobs in his independent contracting business. Angela Posey said her restricted plates contributed to her losing her job and made her wary of pulling up to interviews with the yellow-and-red tags.

Both agreed that the restricted plates haven’t affected their drinking habits but keep them from driving after drinking. “It scared me straight,” Posey said.

Similar laws, other states

Michigan is the only other state that has a restricted tags law. It confiscates the vehicle’s metal license plates and issues a temporary paper tag for DUI offenders; they don’t receive their old tags until after the suspension period is up.

Last November, however, Florida state Sen. Mike Fasano proposed a law modeled after Ohio’s where drunk drivers would receive bright pink plates beginning with the letters “DUI.” Further, Florida’s law allows for police to pull over these vehicles without probable cause.

Though its provisions are more extreme than we see here in Ohio — prompting protest from the ACLU and other groups — the opposition asserts that the general method of “scarlet letter plates” used anywhere is a step backwards.

“Subjecting people to public humiliation for crimes is not a proper part of modern criminal justice,” read an editorial in the Southwest Florida News-Press. “Humiliation naturally follows many convictions, but we don’t lock people in pillories as objects of public scorn any more, and if we did, drunken drivers would hardly be the only candidates.”

Still, opponents feel the tags are a worthy consequence of the crime.

“It’s a very small inconvenience compared to the consequences suffered every day by the families of the victims of drunk drivers,” Franklin County Municipal Judge Mark S. Froehlich told The Dispatch. “It’s all about choice. It’s a choice people make. If they’re ultimately convicted of drunk driving, they pay the price.”

What do you think?

Does the crime of drunk driving fit the punishment of the red-and-yellow restricted plates? Or is it an excessive means to humiliate those convicted of DUI? Have you ever known anybody who received the restricted plates, and, if so, did it change your perception of them? Do you think DUI plates will help decrease the rate of drunk driving in Ohio? Join the discussion and let us know!

After you’ve had your say, see what Columbus Dispatch readers think about the issue: The Hot Issue: Do you think DUI plates are a good method to prevent drunken driving in Ohio? - Columbus Dispatch

Related links:
Steering Clear — The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio’s DUI laws — The Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Scarlet letters to flag drunken drivers take effect tomorrow — The Toledo Blade
Traffic Code changes effective Jan. 1, 2004 — The Bureau of Motor Vehicles
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10/19/2015
Springfield, ohio
Dianne
Springfield North High
I approve this licence plate, in fact one should be issued to text offenders as well!

4/27/2013
Columbus, Ohio
Erik
North High
The problem I'm having here is that I am not sure the special plates constitute punishment. After all, the issue would be cruel and unusual punishment. But like the sex offender public lists, having a different license plate--and driving is a privileg not a right--is probably not punishment but public safety.

8/24/2012
ohio
uk
groveport
My brother has totaled several cars and had 2 stints in Maryhaven due to drunk driving. I fully support the yellow tags. You need to know who you are driving next to and who to steer clear of.

5/4/2012
newbury park / California
sabeth
halder / maple canyon school
This is an interesting topic. I need help because i have a debate tournament on this topic "states should issue scarlet plates to DUI drivers" Any ideas?

5/19/2011
Montgomery/TX
Dustin P
Metzger/Montgomery
The ideal of singling some one out just for drinking and driving is invading in someones privacy. You don't see the government singling out the people that have broken other laws. So why should they have the right to just singling out D.U.I offenders. What do you think other drivers would think when they see one of these plates going down the road? I think if someone with a family member that was killed by a drunk driver would want revenge on every drunk driver that is on the road and the yellow and red plates would just help them realize that they are D.U.I. offenders. I believe if a officer was out late and saw one of these plates he would most likely pull that person over just because he already had a D.U.I. In the other hand I think It might be a good idea in a way to. People will get embarrassed that they have to have the temporary plates. They would have to wake up every day and remember what they have done wrong. So i think that its a good idea and a bad idea at the same time.

5/19/2011
Montgomery/TX
Dustin P
Metzger/Montgomery
The ideal of singling some one out just for drinking and driving is invading in someones privacy. You don't see the government singling out the people that have broken other laws. So why should they have the right to just singling out D.U.I offenders. What do you think other drivers would think when they see one of these plates going down the road? I think if someone with a family member that was killed by a drunk driver would want revenge on every drunk driver that is on the road and the yellow and red plates would just help them realize that they are D.U.I. offenders. I believe if a officer was out late and saw one of these plates he would most likely pull that person over just because he already had a D.U.I. In the other hand I think It might be a good idea in a way to. People will get embarrassed that they have to have the temporary plates. They would have to wake up every day and remember what they have done wrong. So i think that its a good idea and a bad idea at the same time.

5/15/2011
MT
Jordan
Mrs. Campbell/North Star High School
This punishment of essentially pinning a scarlet letter to the lapel of those who have received DUIs seems rather elementary to me. It singles out people and humiliates them for something irresponsible they have done, just as the kid who wets his pants has to wear them the rest of the day. If there is one thing people hate more than being caught doing something bad, it is being shamed and publicly denounced for doing it. I feel that the implementation will continue to be extremely effective. Although it airs out people's dirty laundry, perhaps they wouldn't have any to hang if they hadn't made such bad choices. We don't make people wear signs for other crimes, but driving under the influence affects so many more than just that individual. It is not so much a red flag of dishonor as a warning to those around you. They are entitled to be aware of potentially unsafe situations and erratic behavior. It is a measure intended to deter getting a DUI in the first place. As far as job interviews, there are many things that you can lose a job over, from your Facebook profile to your license plates, so make good decisions.

4/26/2011
Sidney MT
Cody Whitney
Sidney High School
The bright plates in my oppionion is a violation of privacy. also if other people drive that vehicle they may be seen driving a car with the dui plates and could get false acusations of being a drunk driver. the plates may attract attention to the driver and take other peoples eyes off the road causing more accidents then necisary.

4/8/2011
greencastle
Zach
gahs
I think that the plates are a violation of privacy. People that are convicted of drunk driving don’t want everyone to know that they were convicted. Lawrence Taylor says “If these plates were working — if the drinking populace is cowering at the notion of having to adorn its vehicles with these things — we would have experienced a significant drop in alcohol-related traffic fatalities”. I also think that if a driver has the plates the police would be more likely to pull them over.

3/10/2011
Greencastle, PA
Wendy
Greencastle-Antrim
I do not think that the punishment of the red-and-yellow restricted plates fits the crime of drunk driving. I understand that drunk driving is definitely not okay, but I believe there are less extensive punishments rather than making someone have a bright colored tag that would catch everyone’s attention. People, who are for the punishment feel that it is very reasonable, compared to those with the tags feel like it gives them a rough six weeks on the road. I think there could be other ways of punishment, like having a breathalyzer ignition interlock. According to TIME magazine a new highway bill pending before Congress would instruct all 50 states to require all motorists convicted

3/10/2011
gtown
pb
hefner
Driving under the influence is a problem that will remain eminent in the United States. The punishment for DUI’s are way too lenient and are in favor of the driver rather than the victim if he/she were to get into a crash. In Ohio and Michigan, bright colored license plates have been ordered to show that the driver is currently under a six to twelve month probation. This can be embarrassing and have dramatic effect on people’s lives, such as a loss of job or cause trouble during a job interview. In 2008, according to alcoholalert.com, 1,468 people were killed due to DUI related car crashes. This is more than enough reason to make those who are convicted, suffer through the embarrassment.

12/21/2007

Breanna R.
Walnut Ridge H.S., Columbus
I think this is a good idea. There are some Pros and Cons to this issue. The Pro is that DUI drivers get too many slaps on the wrist and later can kill someone. It can be an humbling experience that can hopefully change them. The Con to the idea is that some people might take matters into their own hands and hurt these drivers and the police can pull them over for no reason at all. Despite their mistake, they are people too with rights like everone else.

4/27/2006

Toddia
West High
It really shows who the dummies are in this world

4/27/2006

Ben C
West High
Hey I it's a great thing that these people have to have these license plates. I know that every time I see a car with these plates swerving in out of lines, I know that this person could be drunk and i have to get by this person as fast and safe as possible.

4/27/2006

Stacy
West High School
No, it's wrong to do something like that.

4/27/2006

Frances
West High School
I think that this is a great idea because it is a warning sign for me. I will know to stay away from that driver.

4/27/2006

regan
west high school
I think that they should not do that because they dont know if it's that person's first time or not.

4/27/2006

Jessica
West High
I thinks its a good idea. I also think they should make license plates for sex offenders too.

4/27/2006

Donald
West
I think that it is a good idea. It will embaress them enough not to do it anymore.

4/27/2006

Adan
West High School
They really should make those plates that really shows whos who and who is not.

4/27/2006

Sheena
West High School
In my opinion, I actually think it's a great idea to do something like this. It will be easier to know who the drunk drivers are, that way you can get away from them as safe as you can before you end up getting caught in something that you have nothing to do with. You can save more lives this way.

4/27/2006

Sarah Bennett
West High
I think that they should have to use the red and yellow license plates. For one, it is a form of punishment and it lets everyone know to be careful when around that driver.

4/27/2006

Brittany
West High School
I do not think that people that has been convicted of drunk driving should have to have red and yellow license plates. That puts people out on display.

4/27/2006

Jeremy M
West High
No, I dont think that that is right and I for one would not like to have that so others would not want to have them either. And that would not stop them from drinking and driving, would it?

4/27/2006

Landrea N/ Erik M
west high school
yes, we think that that should be a law because there are to many people being killed because of drunk drivers and nothing is really being done about it. Drunk drivers should be labeled so people can be warned about them, instead of just giving them a few years in jail and letting them back out so they repeat what they what they were put in jail for.

4/27/2006

Chris B
West High School
I feel that the plates are a great idea. It lets anyone who is hosting a party know that the person has been convicted of a DUI and maybe you should take that person's keys before they leave. It also discourages others from driving under the influence because if they get caught, they could get the yellow plates and all the stares to go with them.

4/27/2006

Asia
West high
I don't think that separting DUI offenders from everyone else is fair because you shouldn't judge someone by one mistake or crime, it shouldn't be everybodys business.

4/27/2006

Ashleigh S.
West
I think it is a good idea. I think knowing who a drunk driver is could save lives. I also feel the pink licence plates should be given to sexual prediters. It is a good way to keep people safe it should not be their choice because they they choose to break a law and this will hopefully help and remind them not to do it again.

4/27/2006

Joey
West High
I think that its a great idea to do that it will let other drivers know to watch out.

4/27/2006

chantelle.h
west high
Personally I think that they are a bad idea. They give a cop the reason to automatically become suspicious of that particular person. So I think we shouldn't use them.

4/27/2006

Kelly M.
West
I think its okay for repeat DUI offenders to have yellow license plate because it will let police know to watch that car. Also, it will make people think before they drink and drive because a yellow license plates are embarassing.

4/27/2006

Alexous H.
West High School
I think we should keep them on the red and yellow license plates so we know if we need to watch out for them or not. If they drink and drive once then they will do it again.

4/27/2006

Tiffany G
West High School
I don't thing there is anthing wrong with the red-and-yellow license plates for drunk drivers. It is good because it allows other people to have caution around drunk drivers.

4/27/2006

Amber G
west
I think that its a good idea because the drunk drivers should be identifyed as a convicted drunk driver so people could know.

4/27/2006

Ashley McG
west high school
I think that they should use the tags because they made a mistake before and can do it again and it will warn people to be careful.

4/27/2006

Ashley Childers
West High School
I don't think that is right, it is labeling people...

4/27/2006

AaronC
west high
Yes, they should know who to look for on the roads and other places

4/27/2006

Melanie N
West High School
I don't think that people who have DUI's should have to have red-and-yellow license plates because I don't think that they should have to feel like everyone knows that they have had a DUI or anykind of other driving offences.

4/10/2006

danny
brookhaven
I think as a fellow motorist that the plate idea is a good way to punish drunk drivers. it also gives them a reason to not to do it again.

4/10/2006

thomas
brookhaven
I think it is a violation of people's privacy because people may look at them differently or the police may pull them over for nothing.

4/10/2006

scooter
Brookhaven
I like the idea of the plates because people aound that person can drive more cautiously and think twice about driving with that person.

3/22/2006

Shaq
Africentric
Yes I feel that is a wonderful thing to do for people who were convicted of a DUI, because it can warn people when they are on the road with them. I feel that it is a good punishment for them, because everyone needs to know who they are on the road with. The only issue will be people who borrwow other's cars who have that on theircar, my advice is don't use they car if you don't want to be labeled a Drunk Driver

3/22/2006

Visuelle H.
Africentric
I really don't think that these license plates identifying who are drunk drivers will have any effect on anything. All it will do is let people know who has been convicted for driving drunk. Also if they have already paid for the crime then that should be enough.

3/22/2006

Aushayu S.
Africentric
I think that the red and yellow license plates for DUI drivers are very neccesary. The yellow and red license plates help identify drivers who other drivers should be more cautious around. Also the plates help the police to recognize drivers that they should be more watchful of. The plates in my opinion are resonable punishment for convicted drunk drivers. It is a crime that is taking a risk for your life and others.

3/22/2006

Dominique E.
Africentric
i think it's good because you know who is bad to ride next to because they are reckless drivers because they have been convicted of driving under the influence so it has its purpose.

3/22/2006

Sherricka
Africentric
I think that it would be a good idea, so other people can be aware of the reckless people on the road.

3/22/2006

Alonda
Africentric
Personally, I beleive that it is reasonable punishment. Also people will stay clear of them.

3/22/2006

Pierre P
Africentric
I think they should do plates in that way, it clearly identifies the motorist. That can be helpful, waking the awarness of people.

3/22/2006

chaneece
Africentric
I think that is great because people want to watch out for people like that who are on the road. I don't want no one tearing up my rear end while I am driving. But since they have that special tag then everyone will probaly think that they are drunk all the time.

3/22/2006

Malik
Skinner
I dont think that is a good thing, cause pepole who dont drink that much can get pulled over on the wrong day.

3/22/2006

Darius R.
Africentric
This is just another way to profile those that have offended the law. What's next? Making rapists and robbers wear signs describing their crime and punishment? Making kids go to school with "Just back from suspension" signs stampped on their foreheads? How far will we go to label and categorize people? We all make mistakes. Does that mean we have to advertise them?

3/22/2006

Rob S
Africentric
I think that it is messed up that they would label someone like that, but they also put themselves in those perdicements.

3/20/2006

Latonya B
Fort Hayes High School
I think that putting red or yellow license on someone's car saying that they were drink driving, I think it's a good idea so people will know to be aware of that person. But the problem is since he/she has the special license, people will think the driver is drunk driving all the time.

3/10/2006

Janequa, R
Eastmoor Academy
I think that it's not a good idea to do the red- yellow license plates, because that's just showing other people their personal information. I also think that it just gives a police officer a reason to stop them. I feel it's not right because other people drink all the time but they just have not been caught. So I think that it's not a good idea, because people shouldn't know about others personal lives unless they want others to know.

3/9/2006

Jessika G.
Eastmoor Academy
I think that if you have more than one DUI than yes, you should have the different plates. But there could be that one time when you had just a little too much to drink and you were on your way home and you just so happened to get caught by the police. If you are not a regular drunk driver than you shouldn't be punished for a one time thing.

3/9/2006

M. Evans
Eastmoor Academy High School
I believe that six months with the red and yellow plates is just long enough. However I believe that the police being able to pull you over without probable cause is harsh.

3/9/2006

Gary S.
Eastmoor Academy
Personally, i don't think that these license plates will have any effect on anything. All this might do is let people know who has been convicted for driving drunk. I can't tell you if that person is driving drunk at that moment. If you are driving down the street and you come up on someone who has the new issued plates, are you going to go out of your way just so you don't drive past them? What if it was just their one time mistake in life? What if that was their first and only time drinking? What if a person with a regular tag is the drunk driver and in avoiding the driver with the yellow tags you get hit by the drunk with the regular white tags? I think the tags are pointless. There is no assurance that the tags will protect you from getting hit by a drunk driver. Maybe whoever came up with this idea was going for humiliation. Maybe they thought that if the person who was caught driving drunk was publicly humiliated, they would learn their lesson.

3/8/2006

Gregg B
Linden Mckinley
I feel that Drunk drivers should be prosecuted and taken to prison for some time. After the first time, then they should suffer consequences. You can't punish someone from one time of doing wrong. So I feel that everyone should get another chance, a warning.

3/8/2006

Robert W.
Linden McKinley
It is good to use the red and yellow license plates. It makes it easier to identify them on the road. You can be more cautious when you see them and keep from being in an accident with them. Too many people get hurt because of drunk drivers and they couldn't do anything to identify them. I say yes to the red and yellow license plates.

3/8/2006

Stefan T
linden mc kinley
i feel that the colored plates is a good idea. the reason i feel that way is that so the public can be warned about convicted drunk drivers.

3/7/2006

Damon S.
Linden McKinley
I believe that the new licenses are a good idea because it gives people on the road an awareness of whom could possibly cause an accident or could be drunk driving. Although there can still be accidents this could be a way to stop many.

3/7/2006

Ocaleema W.
eastmoor academy
I don't think that it is a good idea to have specialized plates for drunk drivers. Making their personal lives publicly known is degrading and wrong. People make mistakes, and yes maybe those mistakes may cause accidents, but exploiting someone just to prove a point isn't right.

3/7/2006

Matt W.
Linden McKinley
I think the license plates are a good idea because it'll make the driver remember all their mistakes and tell everyone of them. It will also give the driver something to think about if they don't like being embarassed.

3/6/2006

Brandon M.
Eastmoor Academy
I feel that this is perfectly alright for the punishment given. If former sex offender have to make their business known then so should other former criminals. Besides, its only for 6 months, it's not like it's permenent.

3/6/2006

Kevin T
Eastmoor Academy
I believe that these new license plates are obscured. There is no purpose in this action. Even if people were aware of people who have been previously caught drunk and driving, it doesn’t secure the safety of the people. It is still possible for accidents to happen. Everyone in the world shouldn’t know about other people’s criminal record. People can be different, and those same people may not continue to be drunks. Things change.

3/6/2006

Joey J
Linden McKinley
I believe the plates are a good way to shame the DUI drivers into responisbility and at the same time warn other drivers. I also believe they should have to have a special liscense with a different background color like some states do to note drivers under the age of 21.

3/6/2006

Tiara C.
linden mckinley
I think it is a good idea because while you are on the road you don't know who is crazy and who is safe. it does cut into privacy but it teaches them a lesson about unsafe driving. and they need to pay attention to everyone else on the road as well. so i think it is a good idea.

3/6/2006

Aaron B.
Eastmoor Academy
I don't think this would stop anything. these people would get behind the wheel again. I think that the people who would be embarassed by these plates already would have learned their lesson from the other consequences of drinking and driving. putting all that aside, it's only six months and some people might be more careful with these new plates. It won't effect me that much because i don't drink or drive.

3/6/2006

Emily B.
Eastmoor Academy
This is absurd! Other than knowledge of who did what, what good would the new plates do? I foresee more bad occuring than good. There are crazy people out there that do stupid things, even when they are NOT drinking, like scratching and beating cars. Allowing this idea to pass would only anger people to see these plates and cause them to act out of that anger. I think people should have the right to privacy. I believe that lying is wrong, but that doesn't mean that the world has to see a tally of how many times each person has lied. I understand that people want to feel safe, but just how much would those plates change your daily lives? Would anyone really try and steer far away from vehicles with those plates or would they just think badly of the people in that car and judge them? Plus, these people have family and friends who don't deserve to be frowned upon while riding in that car. Everyone makes mistakes, but nobody should have to suffer through those mistakes becoming publicly known.

3/6/2006

Jasmine
Eastmoor
I think it's abosolutely neccesary. There are no excuses for driving drunk. You are responsible for your own actions and must suffer the consequences of those actions. Having these plates will let responsible drivers know what to look out for.

3/6/2006

Alea G.
Eastmoor Academy
i think that these restricted plates are a good idea. I also think that sexual offenders need a colored license plates. There are people now who have these plates, but they probably don't drink anymore. So to have a six month plate would make people decide if they want to drink and drive.

3/6/2006

Jasmine
Eastmoor
I believe that this is absolutely necessary. There are no excuses for driving drunk. You are responsible for your actions and you must deal with the consequences of those actions. Having these plates will show responsible drivers what to watch out for.

3/6/2006

Ashley
Eastmoor Academy
This whole issue is illogical! The punishment for DUI'S has already been set, this solution diplays humiliation and injustice. It gives police a reason for pulling people with a record of DUIs over and that not justified.

3/6/2006

Jin
Eastmoor
I believe it's wrong because it's discriminates against FORMER drunk drivers. They shouldn't have to get the red-and-yellow plates when they already paid for the crime.

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