New Hampshire governor promises reforms after deadly crash

FILE - In this July 6, 2019 file photo, motorcyclists participate in a ride to remember seven bikers killed in a June collision with a pickup truck at the site in Randolph, N.H. New Hampshire's Division of Motor Vehicles plans to suspend the licenses of nearly 4,000 drivers as part of a review following the deadly collision. Gov. Chris Sununu said the review released Wednesday, Aug. 28, led authorities to eliminate a backlog of notifications that dated back to July 2016.

CONCORD, N.H. — 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 a newly released review of the Division of Motor Vehicles led authorities to catch up on notifications dating 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 a lack of automation. Nearly 14,000 notifications should have been sent to other states, but weren't, and there were 13,000 notifications of infractions received by New Hampshire from other states that were not recorded.

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. "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 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 and motorcyclists collided on June 21. The truck driver, 23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide. Officials say Zhukovskyy's license in Massachusetts should have 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 that 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 that notices are handled promptly in the future. Among them are continuing to develop an automated processing system, which has been 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 has also 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 of the towns mail paper notifications to the DMV.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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