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Amnesty Program Helps Ohioans Get Back on the Road Legally

photo of Chris Dameron in a truck
Chris Damron got his license back and his reinstatement fees waived under the drivers license amnesty program..

After a six-month pilot period that ended in July, the state is restarting a shortened amnesty program for Ohioans who’ve lost their drivers’ licenses. Over 340,000 people could get back on the roads legally – sometimes after many years of not being able to pay reinstatement fees.

Chris Damron of Columbus lost his license for failing to pay child support when he was 19. Almost two decades later, he’s in recovery and owns a painting business and is a licensed driver again, after having $1,500 in reinstatement fees waived earlier this year.

“Getting my license back was the last part of my puzzle of putting my life back together. That 20 years of driving without my license was terrible, always looking over my shoulder.”

In the first round of amnesty, 7,000 drivers who’d completed court actions got their licenses back and $60 million in reinstatement fees were waived. The program now closes on December 31, but lawmakers are looking at a bill to make it permanent.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.