DEBT RELATED DRIVER LICENSE SUSPENSIONS ADVOCACY

Introduction

Hundreds of thousands of Ohio drivers have their licenses suspended – not because they are dangerous drivers, but simply because they cannot afford to pay a ticket or fine. In Ohio, approximately 60 percent of all driver’s license suspensions are based on a person’s failure to pay money owed to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, for failure to appear in court, or pay a fine.


Without a license, Ohioans can’t take their children to school, buy groceries, or get needed healthcare. Many people have no choice but to continue driving – meaning they risk more fines and fees, a criminal conviction, and incarceration.


Research has shown that 61 percent of those with debt-related license suspensions experienced at least one essential hardship in housing, food, employment, health, child-care, or transportation as a result.


Debt-related suspensions substantially burden Ohio communities with an average outstanding total debt each year of over $920 million, disproportionately affecting high poverty neighborhoods and people of color. Debt-related suspensions cost residents of Ohio’s highest-poverty zip codes an average of $7.9 million each year. Ohio zip codes with the highest percentages of people of color foot the largest portion of the bill, costing residents an average of $12 million each year.


Specifically in Lorain County, there are over 40,000 debt related driver’s license suspensions per year – 35 suspensions for every 100 driving age residents. Research also shows that the average person in Lorain County has a 25-minute commute to work, rendering it virtually impossible to get to work without a car.


Over 20 states have passed legislation eliminating or limiting the government’s authority to revoke, suspend, or refuse to renew a person’s driver’s license for failure to appear in court or failure to pay court fines and fees. This legislation has restored the right to work for thousands of residents, allowing them to positively contribute to the economy while paying down their underlying debt.

 

United Way of Greater Lorain County Position

United Way of Greater Lorain County (UWGLC) believes a person’s ability to pay a fine or a fee should not determine whether they are free to drive. UWGLC supports the elimination of debt-related driver’s license suspensions in Ohio by limiting driver’s license suspensions only to convictions directly related to dangerous driving.