ELYRIA — Lorain County Common Pleas Court is starting a pilot program aimed at giving suspended drivers a second chance on the road.
The program will give driving privileges to drivers who have had their license suspended. Judge Chris Cook started a similar program when he was a magistrate judge at Lorain Municipal Court and proposed duplicating it for Common Pleas Court.
“The main reason to do it is to open up another opportunity for people to get licenses,” Cook said. “Because two things happen: No. 1, we make sure they’re insured (which is very important for the community) and No. 2, when people have their driver’s license, it empowers them to get jobs, to take better care of their families, to participate in the community better.”
The program is designed to help people drive legally and be insured. Drivers must maintain their insurance to stay enrolled in the program.
To get into the program, a background check on the driver is performed to see if they can get their license renewed or just their driving privileges.
It costs $100 to file for the privileges, although someone can file a financial form to waive the fee if they cannot afford it.
Cook said the first two people were admitted to the program this week, and he hopes to have more applicants who need driving privileges to get to work, school or other destinations.
If a driver on the program receives a traffic violation, he or she must inform Cook. If a driver receives a DUI, he or she cannot refuse a Breathalyzer test.
Driving under suspension in Ohio can be hard to get out of, the judge noted. Those who drive with a suspended license will continue to receive suspensions, preventing them from driving legally. Cook said many of them need to get to their jobs, school or take their child to day care.
“Ohio is one of the most punitive states in the nation for driving under suspension, losing your license and the difficulty of getting your license back,” he said. “It’s an absolute terrible cycle that people get trapped in.”
Lorain County also has little public transportation, making it harder for those under driving suspension or without a license to get to where they need to go.
“If you have to choose between picking your kid up in a snowstorm or get food or go to a job that you have to have, most people are going to drive,” Cook said. “Our effort is to get them driving legally and insured.”
Cook volunteered to run the program and will see all the cases for the requested driving privileges. If the driver’s privileges were suspended by another judge, the driver must seek relief through that judge.