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RMV licensing dysfunction fallout spreads to Rhode Island

Jim Davis/Globe Staff/File

The state of Rhode Island will send Massachusetts about 22,500 new notifications about motorists who broke traffic laws but escaped scrutiny here, widening the fallout from a deadly crash this summer that exposed a faulty system of sharing information among states about bad drivers, Massachusetts officials disclosed Thursday.

The notices will add to the tally of suspended licenses in Massachusetts in recent months. Since the June crash in New Hampshire that killed seven, more than 6,300 driver’s licenses have been suspended in Massachusetts.

Thursday’s memo from Jamey Tesler, the acting registrar of motor vehicles in Massachusetts, paints a picture of New England states rushing to flag thousands of drivers who have held onto their licenses despite convictions for serious traffic offenses outside their home state.


Rhode Island authorities plan to send Massachusetts officials thousands of notifications about local drivers who broke traffic laws in Rhode Island. The notices will include “a range of violations, from those triggering immediate suspensions to updated driver record data,’’ Tesler’s memo said.

A MassDOT spokesman said Thursday that the agency believes the Rhode Island notifications were not previously sent to Massachusetts.

A Rhode Island state official declined to comment Thursday night.

Similarly, in recent weeks, New Hampshire has sent more than 8,000 notices about Massachusetts drivers convicted of violating traffic rules there since late 2017, according to the memo.

It will be up to Massachusetts officials to determine if the out-of-state infractions mean the drivers’ Massachusetts licenses should be suspended.

A newly established out-of-state notifications processing unit in Massachusetts has prioritized “these initial batches for triaging and processing of serious offenses’’ because of the regular travel of drivers between the two states, the memo stated.

The disclosures Thursday mark the latest chapter in a scandal sparked by the June 21 truck crash that killed seven motorcyclists in Randolph, N.H.

Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, of West Springfield, had amassed an extensive list of infractions — a mix of impairment and traffic violations across five states — before allegedly crashing his truck head-on into a group of motorcyclists. He has pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide charges.


Just six weeks earlier, Zhukovskyy had been arrested on an operating under the influence charge in Connecticut. Officials there alerted Massachusetts authorities of the incident via mail and an electronic notice. Massachusetts officials concede they should have immediately suspended Zhukovskyy’s license.

In the memo, Tesler called for a national dialogue to improve “state-to-state communications and supporting interstate efforts to improve and automate the sharing of driver information and public safety on our roadways.’’

“What has become abundantly clear is that Massachusetts driving records can only be as up to date as possible as the timeliness of information provided or available to us,’’ the memo stated.

In early September, a spokesman for the Rhode Island DMV indicated that after statements by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and “learning additional information regarding how other states process these electronic transmissions, the Rhode Island DMV will begin, on or before October 1, 2019, to additionally send to other states paper notification of convictions, withdrawals, negates, and restorations for all moving violations committed by non-commercial, out-of-state drivers.’’

The AAMVA administers a national database that allows states to share information electronically.

In August, New Hampshire officials said they suspended licenses of more than 900 residents after an internal review of unprocessed mailed notifications of driving violations in other states.


New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles director Elizabeth Bielecki acknowledged her agency had fallen well behind in processing the alerts, creating a backlog totaling more than 13,000 notices.

State authorities also confirmed that in July 2016 the DMV had stopped mailing notifications to other states when their drivers committed violations in New Hampshire. The state resumed those notifications this summer.

According to the Massachusetts memo sent out on Thursday, registry officials also recently reviewed all commercial driver’s licenses and determined that they had misinterpreted a 2006 law. That review found that 28 active CDL holders were “subject to disqualification.’’

State officials also provided more detail about the 6,300-plus driver’s licenses that have been suspended in Massachusetts.

The figure includes a previously unprocessed backlog of 1,607 license suspensions, a Massachusetts Department of Transportation spokesman said Thursday night. It also includes new violations that have led to license suspensions that the state has received during normal, day-to-day business since the crash. During that time, more than 1,900 Massachusetts drivers have had their license suspended through a review that compared all 5.2 million driver records in the state against the National Driver Register.