A Massachusetts truck driver charged in a horrific crash that killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire in June kept his commercial driver’s license despite a drunk driving arrest in Connecticut in May that should have triggered a suspension.
Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack announced Monday that an initial review of the case found that the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) failed to process the out-of-state violation against the truck driver along with thousands of others.
MADD has worked for years to pass a stronger OUI law in Massachusetts, which is the only state in the nation that does not allow for ignition interlocks for first-time drunk driving offenders. Repeat offenders who use these small, in-car breathalyzers currently must wait at least one year before using them. This is an outdated approach.
Bills already introduced in the Massachusetts House and Senate (S 7, S 2137, and H 1580) would update the state’s drunk driving law requiring interlocks for all first-time offenders.
MADD strongly urges the passage of this lifesaving legislation. The language in the bills has already been passed by the Senate twice.
“We know that a person drives drunk an average of 80 times before their first drunk driving arrest. First time offenders aren’t actually first time offenders,” said MADD National President Helen Witty. “We also know that license suspension alone doesn’t work, with up to 75 percent of people continuing to drive.”
In addition to requiring interlocks for all offenders, the bills would give offenders the opportunity to apply for an ignition interlock license immediately upon notice of license suspension and replace hardship licenses for alcohol-related OUIs with ignition interlock restricted licenses.
Interlocks require a sober breath sample before a vehicle will start, and it is the only technology that separates drinking from driving.
MADD has been closely following the tragedy in New Hampshire, where a Massachusetts driver with a long history of traffic violations – including two prior drunk driving arrests – is accused of crashing a pickup hauling a flatbed trailer into a group of 10 motorcyclists on June 21, killing seven of them.
The 23-year-old driver should have lost his driver’s license following a May 11 charge of operating under the influence in Connecticut. Connecticut notified Massachusetts RMV about the arrest, but the RMV failed to act. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said the state plans an outside audit of the agency.
“What happened in New Hampshire not only took seven lives but was a life-altering tragedy for countless others left behind, and MADD extends its deepest sympathies to all of those impacted. The loss is compounded by the fact that the driver charged in the deaths shouldn’t have been on the road in the first place,” Witty said.
“RMVs and Department of Motor Vehicles are on the front lines of implementing traffic safety laws in our country. They must share information,” said Mary Kate DePamphilis, executive director of MADD Massachusetts. “We must make sure that whatever improvement to the OUI law also gives the RMV the resources it needs to implement the new lifesaving program.”
Since 1980, MADD has helped reduce drunk driving deaths by 50 percent. Yet this 100 percent preventable crime remains the No. 1 killer on our nation’s roads, claiming nearly 11,000 lives in 2017 alone.
“Our country is often too numb and complacent in the face of this vicious, violent crime,” Witty said. “MADD has a blueprint that could end drunk driving today with stronger drunk driving laws, increased enforcement and advanced technology that can passively stop anyone from driving drunk.”
About Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking. MADD has helped to save nearly 380,000 lives, reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50 percent and promote designating a non-drinking driver. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® calls for law enforcement support, ignition interlocks for all offenders and advanced vehicle technology. MADD has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge through local victim advocates and the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP. Visit www.madd.org or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.