1 Ohio license plate, or 2?

A bill requiring Ohioans to display only one license plate on their vehicles appears to be headed for a House vote, although when is unclear.

One of the supporters of the bill, state Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, claims the state could save $1 million annually with the change.

Law enforcement, however, appears largely opposed to the legislation. Officers say the extra license plate on the front helps them in criminal and crash investigations. Marietta Police Chief Brett McKitrick also looked at it from a consumer’s perspective.

“I definitely want the front license plates,” he said. “Their argument for taking it away isn’t real solid, either. It might save some taxpayers money, but how much you want to bet that when you get a new license plate, you won’t see a reduction.”

Lowell Police Chief Jeff Perry said two license plates gives law enforcement a big advantage.

“You read it from the front or the back, and you don’t have to walk out front to read it,” he said. “You run the risk of being hit anytime you have to turn and look at anything. Your attention is diverted from the road.”

The National Institutes of Justice reported 56 law enforcement officers died in traffic-related incidents in 2009. That’s almost half the officer fatalities reported during that year. Those incidents included officers struck while outside their vehicles.

The Rev. H. Christopher Foxhoven, 39, of St. Mary Catholic Church in Marietta said he would go along with the front plate if law enforcement really thinks it’s necessary.

However, looking at it a different way, “I am not sure we need it, then we could get a decorative plate,” Foxhoven said.

“I think it’s redundant,” said Emily McAfee, 25, of Marietta. “We need just the one.”

Lt. Anne Ralston, public affairs commander for the Ohio Highway Patrol, said an officer’s attention to detail and what they are trained to look for can be helped by the two license plates on a vehicle.

“It allows us to identify a vehicle fleeing from the scene,” Ralston said, who’s been on the patrol for 15 years. “We become very trained to look at those details … being able to read a license plate as they travel past. It raises the question: Why does this vehicle have only one plate? Did they steal the other one? That can assist in the recovery of stolen vehicles.”

In West Virginia, the state has required only one plate in its 150-year history. However, Parkersburg Police Sgt. Greg Collins said he likes the vehicles from Ohio and their extra licensing information.

With busy streets with vehicles from Washington County and beyond visiting Parkersburg, “It’s easier for us to identify vehicles and where they are from with the counties on them,” he said.

Additionally, civilians have an easier time giving officers the plate number when it’s on the front and back, Collins said.

Ohio Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Albany, said she has received some calls to her office from constituents mainly concerned about their historical vehicles or sports cars.