Ohio ranked as one of most lenient states on drunken driving penalties

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Ohio comes in low on a list that might surprise you.

A new study ranks the Buckeye State as one of the most lenient in drunken driving penalties in the country.

Ohio ranked 49th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in a DUI study by WalletHub.

We shared that study with a Northeast Ohio man who lost family members in a drunken driving crash several years ago.

He says he's shocked by its findings, and he is pushing for change.

The nightmare started for Tom Tomasheski of Grafton in the summer of 2011.

A drunk driver hit the car his son was driving with his wife and two children inside.

"My grandson and my daughter-in-law were killed, and my son and granddaughter are maimed for life," he said.

Years have passed, but it hasn't gotten any easier.

"This is never ending for us. We've got a life sentence. We live with this every day, the pain never goes away," Tomasheski said.

The driver, 35-year-old Gerald Weatherbee, had several drunken driving convictions on his record already.

He was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

The study by WalletHub examined and compared DUI penalties across the country.

It found Ohio ranked 24th in how long old drunken driving convictions factor into penalties.

In the court system, old OVI's only factor into penalties for six years in Ohio, while most other states look at your record for the past 10 to 15 years.

Tomasheski says that's troubling.

"I was flabbergasted to be honest with you. I had no idea that Ohio would be that low," he said.

In Ohio, an OVI becomes an automatic felony once you have four on your record.

In many other states, it only takes two or three drunken driving convictions.

As a former cop, the comparisons are shocking to Tomasheski.

"I think people need to stand together, I think we need to push our lawmakers, in Columbus. Something has to change. We should not be in last place when it comes to dealing with these people," he said.

He now volunteers for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, where he tells his story to people who have been convicted of drunk driving.

Tomasheski wants them to feel his pain, so no one else ever has to.

"I end everything with 'in honor of my family, in honor of my dead, please don't drive if you drink,'" he said.

There is some good news in the fight against drunk driving.

Nationwide, deaths dropped 57 percent in the last 32 years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The study says Arizona has the harshest DUI laws in the country and South Dakota is the most lenient on drunk drivers.

DUI Penalty rankings for Ohio (1=Strictest; 25=Avg.)

  • 6th – Minimum Jail Time (1st offense)
  • 10th – Minimum Jail Time (2nd offense)
  • 24th – How Long Old DUI Factors into Penalties
  • 9th – Administrative License Suspension
  • 12th – Minimum Fine (1st offense)
  • 13th – Minimum Fine (2nd offense)
  • 13th – Average Insurance Rate Increase After DUI

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