RMV: Rhode Island to hand over thousands of infraction notices

Ocean State notices date back to 2017

MAKING AMENDS FOR past inaction, Rhode Island regulators plan to send the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles roughly 22,500 notices about infractions committed by Bay State drivers in the Ocean State dating back two years.

The massive data transfer will cover a range of violations including some triggering immediate suspensions, according to an update distributed Thursday by Jamey Tesler, the acting registrar in Massachusetts.

The implication, which was not spelled out in the update sent out Thursday evening, is that Rhode Island has for years failed to notify its neighbor to the north about driving infractions, including dangerous ones.

Numerous structural failures in regulating drivers across state lines have been laid bare in the procedural reviews that followed a June 21 crash in New Hampshire that killed seven motorcyclists. Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, whose license should have been suspended because of an intoxicated driving arrest in Connecticut the month prior, faces a range of charges in the case and is scheduled to go to trial Nov. 8.

Soon after the crash, Erin Deveney resigned from her position as registrar of motor vehicles in Massachusetts, and the Merit Rating Board publicly fired the leader of a data-entry department who had allowed paper notifications about Massachusetts drivers to stack up unaddressed.

While Massachusetts officials have acknowledged that Connecticut followed the correct procedures after Zhukovskyy’s arrest, other procedural lapses have been exposed in the subsequent months.

New Hampshire had ceased mailing paper notifications to Massachusetts and other states for “several years,” the update noted. Over the past several weeks, Massachusetts has received 8,000 “pieces of paper representing convictions from New Hampshire dating back to late 2017,” according to Thursday’s report.

Massachusetts and New Hampshire have had productive discussions about “re-establishing a secure automated file-transfer for information-sharing between both states,” and Tesler hopes for the same with Rhode Island.

In the registry’s sixth progress report since the deadly crash, Tesler tallied up a total of 4,443 drivers whose licenses were suspended as a result of processing backlogged paper notices and new notices that the registry has handled more quickly.

Receiving information directly from another state is not the only way that Massachusetts regulators can learn about an infraction. Data is also entered into the National Driver Register, but registry officials had checked that information only periodically. The state has undertaken the lengthy task of checking its 5.2 million driver records against the national database, and 1,903 drivers’ licenses have been suspended through that process.

Massachusetts was also deficient in notifying other states about driver infractions. Tesler said that about 45,000 notices about convictions and suspensions dating back to March 26, 2018 have been mailed out to other jurisdictions.

“As these updates will suggest,” Tesler wrote. “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, and that a national dialogue is necessary to improving state-to-state communications and supporting interstate efforts to improve and automate the sharing of driver information and public safety on our roadways.”

Congressman Seth Moulton has responded to the bureaucratic mismanagement with a proposal to provide federal funding so states can digitize their driver records. Within Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker has called for an overhaul of the regulations governing truck drivers, and suggested improvements to the National Driver Register.

The registry has also focused on its licenses for commercial drivers. A more stringent lookback at that system resulted in 28 active licensees being sent notices of suspension after the registry determined they were subject to disqualification.

Reams of paper has also been shared within Massachusetts government as a result of the scandal. In compliance with requests from the Transportation Committee, the registry provided 970,000 pages of responsive documents, according to Tesler, who said that as of September 25 the registry had satisfied the legislative committee’s requests.

The registry also hired Daniel Florent, a former investigator for the US Marshals Service, former federal air marshal, and former director of law enforcement for Massachusetts. Florent is the new deputy registrar for safety whose tasks include overseeing the new Out-of-State Notifications Processing Unit.

Meet the Author

Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

Joanne Norman, who was the general counsel for the Guaranty Fund Management Services, was hired as the registry’s new chief compliance officer.

The registry is also taking on a new responsibility of overseeing MBTA bus drivers. Starting this month, the registry will take over testing of bus drivers from the transit agency.