In the wake of the June 21st deaths of seven motorcyclists in Randolph, New Hampshire caused by a Massachusetts driver with a suspended license, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu this week announced that the Granite State is reforming its DMV processes.
Officials say the license of the driver that collided with the motorcyclists, 23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovsky of West Springfield, who has pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide, should have been suspended because of a drunken driving arrest in another state.
But preliminary audits of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles indicate that an employee did not know how to add out-of-state drunken driving convictions and Zhukovsky's record in Massachusetts was not changed.
The fatalities in New Hampshire prompted Republican Governor Chris Sununu to order an in-depth review of procedures within the state DMV. Releasing a report this week, Governor Sununu said the tragedy affected everyone profoundly and in the immediate aftermath it was clear there were interstate communication breakdowns. “What we’ve learned through the process now allows us to both challenge and assist other states as they hopefully undergo the same exercise.”
New Hampshire Department Of Safety Commissioner Bob Quinn said the review assessed records and identified steps to improve processes. Quinn says a multiyear plan was already in place and for over two years the DMV has been working to permanently clear backlogs. He added the governor’s mandated audit accelerated the existing plan to automate the system. “We created a new process to generate paper notifications to other states for non-residents who are convicted here in New Hampshire. We provided additional training to our current staff. In partnership with the judicial branch we are developing a new system that allows for the electronic transmittal of judicial branch records to the DMV. And we’re exploring a means of automating filings from insurance companies.”
DMV Director Elizabeth Bielecki says the agency manually processes about 167,000 paper records from other states, courts and local police annually and records change daily based on actions by the courts and drivers. “We determined that we were not sending notices to other states since July of 2016. We were current in the processing of those transactions within our system and the National Driver Register. As a result we have generated and mailed paper notices going back to July of 2016, the last time we have a clear record of paper notices being sent to other states.”
Sununu praised state officials for dealing with the DMV backlog within 60 days. But he said interstate and local systems need to be digitized. “It really comes down to the fact that so many of our systems, there’s still a few left in our state and there’s clearly a lot of others in other states, that require a manual process. We are more up to date with this than the state has ever been. But so much of it is manual which is why so much of what you see here is getting us on a more modernized electronic system. And at a national level allowing other states encouraging them to get on that system so you eventually have this seamless real time flow of information.”
Asked why it took a tragedy to implement changes, Sununu turned to the problems at the Massachusetts RMV. “The issues that resulted in that fatality a complete different situation. That is a real crisis down there. This just I think gave us the impetus to say you know what let’s make sure that while some parts of the electronic system are likely to come on line in the coming years let’s be sure we do it today.”
Commissioner Bob Quinn has met with American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators president and incoming board chair to discuss the need to streamline and unify the state-to-state process and the need for uniform policies regarding non-resident violators.
Audio is courtesy of New Hampshire Public Radio.