Many are grieving in the wake of the fatal motorcycle crash in New Hampshire. At the same time, many are asking, “Where was the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles?” State lawmakers say they will now convene an oversight hearing to review the RMV safety lapses.
The Massachusetts RMV failed to suspend Volodymyr Zhukovskyy’s CDL license, a move which could have prevented the June 21 crash killing seven motorcyclists in Randolph, New Hampshire. Three other riders were injured. The motorcyclists belonged to the Jarheads MC, a New England club for Marine veterans and their spouses.
But how was Zhukovskyy even driving?
Weeks earlier, Zhukovskyy had been charged with an OUI in the state of Connecticut. The Massachusetts RMV received this information yet took no action, leaving the 23-year-old West Springfield man free to drive using his CDL license, which allows him to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
Even though he had a reckless driving history, Zhukovsky received his Class A license – or CDL – in August 2018, WCVB reported.
He had received his Massachusetts personal driving license in April 2013. Soon after, he was picked up for operating under the influence for hitting two vehicles in Westfield, Massachusetts, according to NBC Boston. He lost his Massachusetts driver’s license for 210 days.
Zhukovsky had a history of reckless driving and license suspensions in five states before the New Hampshire crash. In addition to the recent OUI arrest in Connecticut, he had been charged or involved in crashes in Massachusetts, Iowa, Ohio and Texas. He allegedly flipped a tractor-trailer haulting cars in Baytown, Texas just after the Connecticut OUI and just 18 days before the New Hampshire crash. He was not cited in that incident.
Still, Zhukovsky was driving a pickup truck towing a flatbed trailer for his employer, Westfield Transport, in New Hampshire.
Mistakes at the Massachusetts RMV
In the days after the truck crash, families mourned the motorcyclists and the Massachusetts registrar of motor vehicles resigned. We learned Zhukovsky wasn’t the only driver who slipped under the radar.
Gov. Charlie Baker and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack held a series of news conferences. On July 5, they acknowledged they had launched a review of the out-of-state notifications, finding nearly 900 drivers had been allowed to keep driving in Massachusetts even as they faced serious charges in other states. As a result, state officials suspended approximately 876 drivers.
These were serious offenses, including operating under the influence of alcohol and drugs, leaving the scene of a fatal accident and even vehicular homicide.
According to The Boston Globe, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles had ignored thousands of notifications from other states and it was unclear when this practice began. The Globe reported no one at the RMV had been responsible for tracking paper notifications since at least March 2018. These notifications were found in 53 bins in the RMV’s Quincy headquarters, organized by the month of arrival, but with no action taken.
A state official told the Globe it was unclear why the RMV personnel stopped processing the paper notifications. However, the state had signed up for a voluntary electronic notification system created by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators that same month.
We can expect learn more about the safety lapses and the RMV in coming weeks. According to MassLive.com, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation has announced it will hold an oversight hearing later in July.
Meanwhile, Gov. Baker and Transportation Secretary Pollack say the Department of Transportation has or will:
- Extend its review of out-of-state license infractions back to 2011. More drivers could face suspensions.
- Hire an accounting firm, Grant Thornton, to conduct a forensic audit and determine why Zhukovskyy’s license was not revoked. The firm is expected to release a 30-day report, then a final report within 60 days.
- Create a new deputy registrar position to focus on public safety at the RMV.
- Gov. Baker said he is drafting legislation to tighten requirements for CDL licenses.
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