CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire plans to suspend the licenses of nearly 4,000 drivers in the latest fallout following a June crash that killed seven motorcyclists, Gov. Chris Sununu said Wednesday.
The Republican governor said the review of the Division of Motor Vehicles sparked by the deadly crash that was just released led authorities to catch up on notifications it had that dated back to July 2016. Sununu said the department is now caught up and more than 37,000 DMV infractions have been looked at.
Authorities blamed the backlog on the lack of automation, which included nearly 14,000 notifications that should have been sent to other states as well as over 13,000 notifications of infractions received by New Hampshire from other states.
A similar process led Massachusetts to uncover a far larger backlog.
“We left no stone unturned. We accounted for every file and every notification,” Sununu said of the review. “It’s our job as public officials to go through these reviews to ensure that the systems we have in place across the state truly work for the people that we represent.”
As a result, Sununu said more than 3,000 drivers from New Hampshire and elsewhere will have their licenses suspended. None of the suspensions resulted in fatalities in New Hampshire and were not directly related to the deadly motorcycle crash in Randolph.
“What we have learned through the process allows us to both challenge and assist other states as they hopefully undergo the same exercise,” Sununu said.
A pickup truck collided with motorcyclists on June 21. The driver, 23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide. Officials say Zhukovskyy’s license in Massachusetts should’ve been suspended because of a drunken driving arrest.
The crash led to the firing of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles director after it was found the agency stored 45,000 convictions and suspensions levied on out-of-state drivers since March 2018, rather than acting on them.
A preliminary audit found that a motor vehicles employee missed an opportunity to revoke Zhukovskyy’s license because he did not know how to add convictions to driving records. After being notified of Zhukovskyy’s May drunken driving arrest in Connecticut, the employee briefly reviewed the notification from Connecticut but did not change Zhukovskyy’s record.
As part of an ongoing review of the motor vehicles department, the registry this month suspended the licenses of another 869 drivers . The suspensions were in addition to the more than 1,600 people in Massachusetts who had already had their licenses suspended.
Sununu said that he only learned of the backlog after the crash and could not say when the backlog would have been cleared if not for the deadly collision.
Sununu, Department of Safety Commissioner Bob Quinn, and DMV Director Elizabeth Bielecki, speaking at a press conference, said there are measures the state plans to take to ensure notices are handled promptly in the future. Among them are continuing to build out an automated processing system in the works for several years, completing the development of an electronic interface with the judicial branch and working to automate filings from insurance companies. Sununu also has ordered the DMV to produce a monthly status report on notifications.
Further out, Sununu is recommending legislative changes that would allow the DMV to share notifications for all drivers, not just those in states which participate in the REAL ID program. The state is also hoping to encourage municipalities in New Hampshire to automate the sharing of notifications with the state. Currently, most mail paper notifications to the DMV.
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