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August 16, 2011

Tarr pushes bill targeting habitual bad drivers

BOSTON — Two weeks after a fatal hit-and-run accident in Taunton two weeks ago, House and Senate Republicans — including Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, offered a proposal Tuesday that would allow the Registry of Motor Vehicles to permanently revoke the licenses of certain habitual traffic offenders.

The bill, filed jointly by Tarr and by House Minority Leader Brad Jones, would create a three-tiered system of license suspensions for habitual offenders, adding two levels to the current law with progressively more severe punishments.

"Drivers who repeatedly violate the law after having their license revoked are not only abusing the system, they present in many cases a serious threat to public safety," Tarr said in a prepared statement. "The registrar and other officials need the tools to keep such drivers off the road for more than four years at a time, and this legislation will provide them."

The GOP caucus invited Democrats in the Legislature to support the bill.

"Protecting public safety transcends party lines," Tarr said, "and we need a collaborative effort to strengthen this law as soon as possible."

Paul Baran, a 55-year-old Taunton resident with a checkered driving history, was arrested June 6 for allegedly hitting and killing 17-year-old Nicholas Silva-Thomas and then fleeing the scene of the accident.

Lawmakers referred to Baran as a "road menace."

Baran's driving record, according to media reports, included nine serious accidents, at least five license suspensions, and numerous citations for driving without a license, speeding, refusing to obey police and leaving the scene of an accident.

Counting the license suspension for this most recent charge, Baran's license has been suspended 16 times over the past 22 years.

"In light of recent events, this legislation must be moved now," Jones said in a statement. "The public can no longer be put in danger by these drivers who should clearly not be on the road. By providing stronger tools to state and local officials, hopefully we will prevent any further tragedies of this magnitude."

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