MOUNT VERNON — A six-month phase-in period for a new law requiring drivers to use their headlights any time they have their windshield wipers on, ends today. That means beginning Jan. 1, drivers can receive citations for violating this new section of the Ohio Revised Code; not just a warning.
Those citations will cost drivers a $100 fine. According to Mount Vernon Police Capt. George Hartz, city officers will enforce the new state law.
“The city does not yet have an ordinance on the books that addresses that state law [ORC Section 4513.03],” Hartz said. “However, an officer will be able to write violations on that particular section of the Ohio Revised Code, beginning Friday.”
Sgt. C.R. McCruter of the Mount Gilead post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said patrol officers will officially begin enforcement Friday as well.
“The six-month phase-in period of warnings only is now over,” McCruter said. “When you have your wipers on, you must have your headlights on.”
McCruter said the law is designed to keep drivers more safe by increasing the visibility of other vehicles on the road, especially during inclement weather.
Hartz and McCruter both said the new violation is a secondary offense, meaning drivers cannot be pulled over for not having their headlights on when their wipers are on, but they can be cited for the offense when they are pulled over for another offense.
“They would have to have another offense, to pull the person over,” Hartz said. “There will be a separate fine [for the headlight violation] on top of the initial fine.”
McCruter said patrol officers are beginning a big enforcement push today which will run through Sunday. Officers will be looking for impaired drivers this New Year’s holiday weekend.
He said in the past five to 10 years he has worked in traffic enforcement, he has actually seen a decrease in impaired drivers over New Year’s. However, he said, this year has seen a dramatic rise in the number of deaths due to OVI crashes. Six people have been killed in Knox County in 2009 due to impaired driving.
McCruter said troopers are hoping for an improved season over last year, when 10 people were killed across the state in six OVI crashes over the New Year’s four-day weekend.
”We’re going to be out there, being visible, and giving education,” McCruter said. “We want to make sure we keep the roads safe for the public, so we will be out giving warnings and citations as needed.