A six-year-old law designed to prevent sharing of motor vehicle records with other states and the federal government prohibits New Hampshire from easily exchanging information about problem drivers with other states, a Department of Safety spokesman said last week.

While information is still exchanged, it is not done in a method that would violate a 2013 law that prohibits providing DMV database records and extracts that contain personally identifiable information with state or federal governments, according to spokesman Michael Todd.

“At this time, I can’t get into details,” Todd said.

He noted that Gov. Chris Sununu ordered a review of New Hampshire’s tracking and notification system of problem drivers following the June 21 accident that killed seven motorcyclists in Randolph.

The pickup truck driver, Massachusetts resident Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, should have had his commercial driver’s license suspended, but Massachusetts did not properly log an impaired driving incident in Connecticut from the previous month.

Last week, Massachusetts officials announced that Registry of Motor Vehicle workers stopped processing out-of-state violations beginning in March 2018, and 53 bins of unopened mail with thousands of notices were discovered at a records room at the Quincy office of the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).

The Bay State’s RMV has issued more than 1,100 suspensions to 876 drivers as it works through a backlog of out-of-state driver’s license violations that sat unchecked for more than a year.

“The lapses discovered at the registry are unacceptable, and the consequences of these lapses have had tragic outcomes,” Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday in a news conference.

Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack announced hundreds of additional suspensions Friday, along with plans to hire a deputy registrar for safety and for an external audit of the RMV by outside firm Grant Thornton. All 5.2 million Massachusetts driver’s license records will also be checked against the National Driver Registry.

Pollack said the RMV has finished processing the 53 bins full of alerts from other states — plus another five boxes found in the Quincy headquarters — after officials revealed last week that no one was doing required manual checks on the infractions.

As of Friday, 72 boxes with violations dating from 2011 to 2017 also were located in the RMV’s archive and re-checked, resulting in another 168 suspensions for 130 drivers — a number Pollack said is likely to increase as processing continues over the weekend.

The federal government and states operate several systems to track and report information about drivers. Some systems avoid duplicate licenses in different states. Some systems compile information about license revocations and suspensions.

New Hampshire’s Todd said he could not provide detailed information about the systems that our Division of Motor Vehicles uses to exchange information with other states.

“It’s not a simple conversation,” Todd said. “At this time, I can’t get into details. Most of the questions are not going to have a simple yes/no answer.”

But he said the law in question — RSA 260-14-a, Provision for Federal Identification Database Prohibited — prohibits notifications in some instances.

The chairman of the New Hampshire House Transportation Committee said that law was only intended to prevent fishing expeditions involving broad swathes of data.

“It’s another thing if you’ve broken the law and we need to tell people,” said state Rep. George Sykes, D-Lebanon. He said the legislation, pushed by former Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, had broad support in the Legislature and was signed into law by then-Gov. Maggie Hassan.

He said New Hampshire belongs to several compacts that do share information.

“How? I can’t honestly answer that question. It’s a legitimate question. I’m glad to hear the governor has asked for a review,” Sykes said.

The law contains several exemptions that allow for sharing:

• The National Driver Register and the Problem Driver Pointer System, which is operated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. States are required to report license revocations and suspensions into the system. However, most states limit use of the system to when a driver applies for a new license or renewal.

• The Commercial Driver License Information System, which provides information about licensing, violations and convictions about truckers and other commercial drivers to driver registration officials in all states. The system is administered through the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, a private organization comprising motor vehicle administrators nationwide.

• A national system used by law enforcement and a national system to compile information about automobile titles.

• Any state-by-state system used to verify information from applicants for driver licenses and ID cards.

AAMVA maintains a state compact system to track driver licenses and information about non-resident violators. New Hampshire joined the non-resident violator compact in 1982 and the driver license compact four years later, according to the AAMVA website.

That system is not automated, and states decide how to share the information, whether through email, paper format via U.S. mail, or other mechanisms of their choice, said Claire Jeffrey, an AAMVA spokesman.

Todd said that New Hampshire officials do share information with other states, but was uncertain of the mechanism. He said the review of the system is a top priority for the DMV and Department of Safety.

In Massachusetts, Pollack said she believes the RMV has now “tracked down every paper copy” of any out-of-state violation notices for the last five years. She also said registry employees are reviewing out-of-state notifications either on the day they’re received or the business day thereafter.

While Pollack said the backlog of hundreds of infractions was “substantial,” she noted that the RMV suspends about 230,000 licensed Massachusetts drivers a year, including nearly 3,000 suspensions in May for operating under the influence and chemical test refusals alone.

On Monday, officials said 655 suspensions had been issued to 546 drivers. Friday, Pollack said that total was now 940 suspensions issued to 746 drivers. Seventy-two boxes with violations dating from 2011 to 2017 were also located in the RMV’s Concord archive and rechecked, resulting in another 168 suspensions for 130 drivers — a number Pollack said is likely to increase as processing continues over the weekend.

The Boston Herald’s Lisa Kashinsky contributed to this report.

Sunday, December 15, 2019
Saturday, December 14, 2019