What’s the rush? Antani, other lawmakers rack up tickets
State Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, has had 14 traffic convictions since 2013, including a ticket for driving 80 in a 55-mph zone.

COLUMBUS — While state legislators make laws, a few don’t always follow them when they’re behind the wheel.

Three Ohio lawmakers racked up more than 10 traffic tickets over the past decade, ranging from speeding violations to tickets for not wearing a seat belt or running stop signs.

At the top of the list was state Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, who had 14 traffic convictions since 2013, including a speeding ticket for driving 80 mph in a 55 mph zone in 2017 in Franklin County. He has been cited nine times for driving 15 or more miles per hour over the posted limit in the past decade.

When asked about his driving, Antani sent a written statement: “I’ve been told I’m a young man in a hurry.

With the issues we face, we need someone who’s in a hurry to fix them. However, I do regret and apologize for speeding and will do better in the future.”

He also argued that the records were illegally released and should not be publicized.

The USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau used state open records laws to request driving records for all 132 state legislators. Reporters chose to review a 10-year window to account for disparities in how long legislators have been driving and avoid penalizing lawmakers for decadesold citations.

The requests were made as lawmakers debated the $13.5 billion transportation budget, which Gov. Mike DeWine recently signed into law. During the debate, legislators considered raising the speed limit to 60 mph on rural roads − a proposal that stalled after DeWine said he’d veto it.

Overall, most state lawmakers abide by the rules of the road. Eighty legislators, about 60.1% of the Ohio General Assembly, had one or fewer traffic violations over the past decade. Only 15 representatives racked up more than five tickets since 2013.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Charles Jones said traffic laws apply to everyone, no matter their occupations. Those with 10 or more tickets on their record should “look very hard at your driving behaviors,” he said.

That includes Antani; Rep.

Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville; and Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery.

Edwards had 13 traffic violations in the past 10 years, including nine tickets for driving 15 or more miles per hour over the posted limits.

“This isn’t something I’m proud of but I accept responsibility,”

Edwards said in a statement, adding that he had driven nearly 300,000 miles across his southeastern Ohio district and to Columbus.

“I’m certainly not above the law. I have tremendous respect for those who work to keep our roadways safe and will continue to support law enforcement.”

Click was cited 10 times, including four speeding tickets for going more than 15 miles per hour over the posted limit. Click, who is a pastor at Fremont Baptist Temple, holds a commercial driver’s license for transporting passengers, according to state records.

He was cited twice for not wearing a seat belt.

When asked about his record, Click said there are more important issues than lawmakers’ speeding tickets.

“If I have a fault it may be that I’m too honest,” he said in a text message. “I don’t try to talk my way out of tickets.

I accept responsibility for my actions. Having been a former law enforcement chaplain, I know that they are simply doing their job.”

Rep. Sedrick Denson, D-Bond Hill, was convicted in 2019 of having physical control of a vehicle while under the influence. More serious charges were dismissed and his driver’s license was briefly suspended.

Three state senators have drunken driving incidents on their records but each case dates back more than 30 years. One of those senators was also cited in 2006 for refusing sobriety tests.

‘Anything over the posted speed limit is dangerous’

While safety advocates can pack a press conference to talk about the dangers of distracted driving, no one wants to call out state lawmakers for bad driving.

The Ohio Traffic Safety Office declined to comment for this story. Even DeWine, who has championed safer roads, said, “I don’t have any comment.”

Speeding compromises the safety technology, such as airbags and crumple zones, that is designed to help drivers and passengers survive crashes and it puts other motorists at risk, said Kara Hitchens of the Ohio Conference of AAA Clubs. “Anything over the posted speed limit is dangerous.”

“If you’re a frequent offender, that’s concerning,” she said. “A habitual speeder should be a concern to everyone.”

Hitchens, though, declined to comment specifically on legislators making laws and then failing to abide by them.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data show that 11,258 people died in speeding-related crashes in 2020, and speeding was a contributing factor in 29% of all fatal crashes.

Who got caught driving 90 mph or faster?

Since 2013, a few lawmakers were clocked driving more than 90 mph, exceeding the posted speed limit by more than 20 miles per hour. They included:

■In 2019, Rep. Jessica Miranda, D-Forest Park, was cited for driving 93 mph in a 70 mph zone in Washington Court House. Since then, she has not had a speeding ticket.

■In 2017, Sen. Bill Blessing, R-Colerain Twp., was cited for 97 in a 70 mph zone.

He got his last speeding ticket in 2021.

■In 2015, Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-North Avondale, a former police officer, was stopped for driving 93 mph in a 70 mph zone in 2015.

The 2015 ticket was his most recent citation.

Who has the most accidents? One lawmaker, Rep. Josh Williams, R-Oregon, was involved in four accidents over the past decade.

Forty-six lawmakers had been in at least one accident since 2013 and 14 legislators were involved in multiple crashes.

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles records don’t show which driver was at fault.

Legislative leaders’ driving records

Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, was cited twice and has no accidents in the past decade.

Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, got cited for driving 70 in a 55 mph zone in 2019. But that’s his only ticket and he’s had no accidents.

House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, got one ticket in Pennsylvania but has a clear record in Ohio. Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, who has no accidents on record, received two tickets over the past decade.

The safety gold star

Some lawmakers have zero tickets or accidents on their records. In the Senate, Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, and Al Landis, R-Dover, have no tickets or accidents on their records.

In the House, Reps. Cindy Abrams, Sean Brennan, Rodney Creech, Jennifer Gross, Thomas Hall, Marilyn John, Darrell Kick, Beth Lear, Phil Plummer and Andrea White have clean driving records.

Abrams is a former Cincinnati police officer and Plummer is the former Montgomery County sheriff. And retired state trooper Kevin Miller has a ticket from 1998 and an accident in 1994 and former police officer Jeff LaRe has no tickets and one accident in 2005.