Thursday, July 10

BOSTON (AP) — Thousands of unsafe drivers, some with offenses as serious as motor vehicle homicide, were allowed to drive for years after the court-ordered loss of their licenses because of administrative delays, according to a state audit released yesterday. Between 2005 and 2006, about 7,500 to 9,000 drivers notified by the Registry of Motor Vehicles that they'd lost their licenses had actually had those licenses revoked or suspended in court an average of two to four years earlier, the report said.

The motorists represented about 3 to 4 percent of all drivers criminally cited during that period. Some offenses were routine, but others were convicted of motor vehicle homicide, a third drunken driving offense and leaving the scene of an accident.

The report faults the court system for huge lags in reporting criminal citations to the RMV, including a delay as long as 17 years. But State Auditor Joe DeNucci said the RMV must take the lead in fixing the problem.

"It has a responsibility to ensure that the public is protected by suspending or revoking the licenses of unsafe drivers as soon as possible following a court deposition," DeNucci said in a press release.

Registrar Rachel Kaprielian called the problem "an immediate and pressing challenge" and said getting information about the convictions from the courts more quickly is a top priority.

A major problem has been the lack of the technology to transmit the information from the courts to the RMV, she said. The audit said attempts to establish the connection have been stymied by high costs.

"I know that there has been a long-standing frustration for former registrars with the courts in getting these records," Kaprielian said. "This is not news to the Registry of Motor Vehicles."

Kaprielian said this summer she's conducting an executive working group, including court officials, to solve the problem.

The state Trial Courts system said in a statement that courts in Ayer and East Boston are testing a new system for transmitting information to the RMV when cases are resolved, and is working with the Registry to expand the program.

Another section of the audit also says communities have lost out on millions in excise tax revenues because the RMV has undervalued luxury vehicles.

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