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Road to Nowhere: Debt-Related Driver’s License Suspensions in Ohio

Posted September 26, 2022
12:30 pm

More than half of Ohioans face driver’s license suspensions for reasons other than dangerous driving. Approximately 60% of all Ohio driver’s license suspensions are based on a person’s failure to pay money owed to a court, to the Ohio BMV, or to a private third-party.

These “debt-related suspensions” (DRS) trap people with limited means in an impossible cycle: they cannot afford the required payments, so they need to work to earn money, but they don’t have a valid driver’s license, so they cannot get to work, thus they cannot make the payments to get a valid driver’s license.

The Fines and Fees Justice Center and the Free to Drive Campaign are working on this issue across the country. Over 20 states have passed reforms in recent years to eliminate or significantly reduce debt-related driver’s license suspensions based on fines and fees, but not Ohio.

This national movement, and the hardship Legal Aid clients experience who face DRS, prompted The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland to investigate DRS in Ohio.

The results of this research are now available in the report, Road to Nowhere: Debt-Related Driver’s License Suspensions in Ohio. Click here for the PDF file, or view the report in the window below.

The key findings are:

  • Ohio drivers face over 3 million debt-related suspensions annually.
  • Debt-related suspensions substantially burden Ohio communities with an average outstanding total debt each year of over $920 million.
  • Debt-related suspensions occur across Ohio but at a higher rate in urban areas.
  • Debt-related suspensions cost residents of Ohio’s highest poverty zip codes an average of $7.9 million each year.
  • Debt-related suspensions cost residents of Ohio’s zip codes with the highest percentages of people of color an average of $12 million each year.

Legal Aid continues working to address debt-related driver’s license suspensions in Ohio. We are collaborating with local, state, and national groups on this effort. For more information, email

If you need legal help with a suspension that is interfering with your ability to work, contact Legal Aid.

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