Report: Massachusetts failing to suspend drivers licenses
BOSTON — The Massachusetts motor vehicle department wasn’t properly processing out-of-state notifications about driving offenses, instead putting them into storage bins where they were left untouched, an investigation found.
The interim report released Monday by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation was sparked by the New Hampshire motorcycle crash that killed seven.
Connecticut officials twice alerted Massachusetts about a drunken driving arrest against the truck driver in the crash, 23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, the report found.
Despite the alerts, Massachusetts failed to suspend Zhukovskyy’s license. He has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of negligent homicide.
Out-of-state notifications had been placed in the bins since March 2018, the report found. A review of those records in the past five days has resulted in license suspensions against more than 600 Massachusetts drivers related to alcohol offenses.
Prosecutors in Connecticut said Zhukovskyy was arrested May 11 after failing a sobriety test. He refused to submit to a blood test, prosecutors said. His lawyer in that case said Zhukovskyy denies being intoxicated.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said the state Registry of Motor Vehicles "failed to act on critically important information that had been previously communicated by another state."
"This failure is completely unacceptable to me, to the residents of the commonwealth who expect the RMV to do its job and track drivers' records," the Republican told reporters.
He went on to say that Connecticut had done nothing wrong.
Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said investigators are still trying to determine why workers at the registry's Merit Rating Board, which is responsible for maintaining and updating individual driving records, began storing the records instead.
More than 53 bins containing tens of thousands of individual notices were discovered, sorted by month and stored in a records room in the agency's Quincy, Massachusetts, headquarters.
Pollack said that as a result of the probe, immediate changes have been made. She said out-of-state notifications about driving offenses are now being processed either on the day they're received or the following day to avoid a growing backlog.
The electronic notice sent by Connecticut should have been processed by a system in the Registry. When the system, known as ATLAS, can't process a notice, it generates a list of unprocessed notices which must be addressed manually.
The report found that no registry workers appear to have been assigned to deal with the list of unprocessed notices.
The report said workers have fixed the ATLAS coding so that future notifications like that for Zhukovskyy will be processed electronically instead of manually.
"An initial review of this specific case determined that the registry did not act expeditiously on information provided by Connecticut that should have triggered the termination of that individual's commercial driver's license," Pollack said.
The fallout from the crash also led to the resignation of Erin Deveney, the former head of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Pollack said the state is also taking steps to ensure that all 5.2 million driver's licenses in Massachusetts are up to date. In any given year, roughly 230,000 suspensions are issued in Massachusetts for a variety of reasons.
The state Department of Transportation is also seeking an outside firm to conduct an audit of the registry's operations.