I look for clues when I'm behind the wheel. Most of them are more about my paint job than about safety. For instance, I avoid parking next to a car that's already banged up, figuring they have nothing to lose if they're careless with their door.
If a sign on the car says, "Student Driver," I assume this is their very first lesson. I do not assume they will stop when they should or stay on their own side of the road.
When I'm on the highway, I give a seriously wide berth to rental trucks, unwieldy vehicles driven by amateurs. And I never extend a single-digit salute to someone in a pickup truck with a gun rack.
My mother is wary of drivers in hats. "They drive too fast and are careless," she claims. I don't know if she's right, but she has never been in an accident caused by another person.
Any sensible driver is extra careful when they see a weaver, drifting left of center and onto the berm. Most of the time, it's somebody on a cell phone or eating Biggie Sized sandwich or - and I'm sorry to say this - a woman applying makeup. But sometimes you have to wonder if that driver who is all over the road is genuinely impaired.
Maybe we need an additional clue.
The Ohio legislature has thoughtfully provided something else to watch for. Jan. 1, a new law will require motorists convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to use mustard-yellow license plates with bright red numbers. These "DUI plates" have been a judicial option since 1967, but I've never seen one.
As of Oct. 1, according to Julie Hinds of the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles, only 1,526 such plates have been issued - four in Hamilton County, three in Butler, two in Clermont, seven in Warren and none in Adams.
DUI offenders who are granted special driving privileges - for example, to and from work or for medical or educational purposes - won't be allowed to drive without the plates. And it might be noted that everybody else in the family who drives the car will be driving with the scarlet-lettered plates.
"If nothing else," says attorney Jim Slattery, "it's an embarrassment. Maybe the other people who have to go around with that plate on the car might exert some influence." He's hell on wheels, so to speak, on the crime of drunk driving.
A humiliation? Too bad.
"Driving is a privilege," he says, "not a right. Drunk driving is a crime of violence because of its potential." A public defender who works mostly in Hamilton County's Drug Court, he has a convert's zeal.
He has been sober for nine years, but before that he drove drunk. Plenty of times. He was only caught once. "I'm all for anything that helps get impaired drivers off the road, even first-time offenders."
Sgt. Robin Schmutz of the Ohio Highway Patrol says, "We still have to have a primary violation. We wouldn't just stop somebody with the DUI plate. But citizens might look a little harder at that vehicle."
Besides the weavers, she says we should watch for people speeding up and slowing down. If you see something that looks dangerous, call 1-800-GRABDUI or 1-877-7PATROL with a description of the car and a license number.
"We'll dispatch somebody right away," she says. "We want to save lives. Maybe the new plates will be one tool."
At least it's another clue.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 768-8393.
Fire chief dismisses chaplain
Living the river life
Riverboat business setting new course
Shoo, ladybug, fly away home
IN THE TRISTATE
7 on ballot for 3 CPS board seats
Patrols help out community
Sellman principal dies while playing football
2 suburbs to vote on taxes
Rondo's fueling hopes on west side
Bronson: October reminder: Nothing gold can stay
Howard: Good Things Happening
Pulfer: 'DUI plates' are one more clue for cautious drivers
Crowley: Dems rail against Murgatroyd campaign
Korte: Reece to come out swinging in TV ads
BUTLER, WARREN, CLERMONT
Shop's new owner working to replace wedding gowns
Clermont celebrates world of diversity
'Trial by fire' at Kings schools
John R. Campbell gave time, talent
Vernon Wahle wrote alma mater
Ex-hoops star shot to death
Four Mason County deputies fired from jail
Former Gov. Breathitt critical; cause still unknown
Parties spar over voters
Covington Diocese settles at $5M
Candidate tired of being known for his millions
Prescription drug overdose deaths rise in Jefferson Co.
Man injured in plane crash dies
Cigarette makers requested to pay up
Tell us about local bottlenecks