Have you ever gotten pulled over and thought, “There’s no way I was doing anything wrong”? You were watching your speed carefully, you’re confident that you didn’t miss any signs… so why is this happening? Then the officer tells you that your tail light is burned out. What? There’s no way that’s against the law, right? It’s just a bulb! There are quite a few small laws like that that could get you into trouble if you don’t know they exist.
Don’t Get Burned Out
In Ohio, the law states that at least one of your tail lights must work- namely, that at least one tail light must “emit a red light visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear.” Your rear license plate must be illuminated as well, whether that be by the white part of your tail light or by a separate light placed under or over your license plate. The plate must be readable from fifty feet away. If you do not have the required amount of light in these situations, you will be charged with a minor misdemeanor.
Always Remember to Signal
Did you know that failure to use your turn signal before completing a turn or a lane change is not just rude, but actually a minor misdemeanor? The law states that you are to turn on your signal no less than 100 feet before you start your turn or merge. If you are on the highway going 60 miles per hour, this means you should turn on your signal about a second and a half before merging lanes. If you are ticketed for this, it could cost you up to $150.
Watch Your Windshield
If your windshield is cracked, chances are, you’re going to want to get it fixed pretty quickly anyway. Can it get you into trouble in the meantime? The short answer is yes, but it’s unlikely. In the state of Ohio, you can’t be pulled over solely for a broken windshield. However, if you get pulled over for another violation and the officer notices your broken windshield, they can then slap you with an additional fine for an “equipment safety violation”. Side note: driving with a broken or cracked windshield is never a good idea. If you can, avoid driving your car until you can get it fixed!
Tag, You’re It
Expired plates or license tags are another one you really need to watch out for. License tags expire on the car owner’s birthday, and it’s best to renew them early. You can update your registration through the BMV up to 90 days before your birthday, and you’ll be charged a small fee if you register your car late. There’s a grace period of 30 days for that fee- however, this does not mean there’s a grace period for the fine you’ll get if you drive with an expired registration! Driving with expired tags could get you pulled over. If you’ve never had a citation before, the officer may let you off with a warning. However, they may issue a citation with a cost of up to $250, or even up to 30 days in jail! If your registration is expired by more than six months, your car could be impounded and you could be issued a criminal citation. On top of dealing with the costs of getting your car out of the impound lot, you’d have to go to court. It’s easy to avoid all of this- just make sure you renew your tags early. According to the DMV, for a regular passenger vehicle, the cost is $34.50.
Minor Speed Violations
Speeding is perhaps the most common way to get yourself pulled over. But how many miles per hour over the speed limit do you have to be going in order to be cited? The law states that you must drive at a “reasonable or proper [speed], having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the street or highway and any other conditions” (Ohio Vehicle Code section 4511.21(A)). Technically, an officer can pull you over if you’re going even one mile an hour over the speed limit. However, the circumstances around being pulled over for speeding vary. If traffic is going 80 miles per hour and you are following the posted 60 miles per hour speed limit, that may be considered an unsafe speed given that people may have to brake suddenly in order to avoid hitting you. In Ohio, a speeding ticket can be up to $150, and if you are going too fast and are cited for reckless driving (typically 10 or more miles per hour over the posted speed limit) you could end up with up to two points on your license. Additionally, if an officer catches you using your cell phone while driving, they can add that charge onto the ticket as well, since it is considered a secondary offense in Ohio.