When news of last weekend’s horrific accident in northern New Hampshire first began to trickle south, the initial reaction was one of shock and sadness.
But as more information came to light about the crash that killed seven motorcyclists on Route 2, a rural highway deep in the White Mountains, that shock turned to anger, much of it focused here in Massachusetts.
Volodymyr Zhukovskyy of East Bridgewater, the driver of the trailer-towing pickup truck that authorities say crossed the roadway and plowed into a group of bikers headed to dinner, pleaded not guilty earlier this week to seven counts of motor vehicle homicide.
While Zhukovskyy will have his day in court, it is clear he shouldn’t have been driving at all. The 23-year-old had been arrested in Connecticut on May 11 and charged with operating under the influence. Zhukovskyy also refused a chemical test, which was supposed to trigger an automatic suspension of his Massachusetts commercial drivers license.
That never happened. Connecticut officials said they notified Massachusetts officials of the arrest and test refusal. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, in turn, said Connecticut “failed to provide sufficient information” about the arrest through a national system that alerts other states about driver violations.
Later, however, RMV officials admitted it received notification that should have triggered a so-called manual review, which was never performed.
“The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles has a responsibility to enforce the laws governing safe operation of motor vehicles and it carries out its mission to the best of its abilities,” the RMV said in a statement Tuesday, the same day department head Erin Devaney resigned. “But in this case, the RMV had not acted on the information provided by the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles about a May 11 incident that should have triggered termination of this individual’s drivers license.”
It’s the long way of saying the RMV didn’t do its job.
Registry officials now say they are conducting a “thorough review” of the process that led to Zhukovskyy keeping his license. And while officials said the review will also look at the department’s overall procedures, no one could say for sure whether there were other drivers with similar infractions who still hold their licenses.
That is unacceptable. While the RMV should certainly be checking its work, the oversight shouldn’t stop there. A independent review by the state auditor’s office seems wise. There are too many dangerous drivers, and motorists — in Massachusetts and across the country — need to be confident the Bay State is doing all it can to keep them off the road.