Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Legislation Responds to Dangerous Drivers

In light of the recent hit and run tragedy in Taunton -- which resulted in the death of a 17-year-old skateboarder at the hands of a driver whose license had been revoked or suspended 16 times since 1989 -- I have joined with my Senate and House colleagues to file legislation targeting habitual traffic offenders.

You can learn more about our current motor vehicle laws and what my bill would do to strengthen these laws by clicking on the "read more" section below and reading the press release I issued today.

With the recent arrest of habitual traffic offender and road menace Paul Baran, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) and members of both the Senate and House GOP caucuses are taking legislative action to keep habitual offenders off the road. They have filed legislation that would provide the registrar of motor vehicles with the tools to adequately punish convicted habitual traffic offenders with longer suspensions that could result in a lifetime license revocation for the worst violators.

“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. 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,” said Senator Tarr.

“In light of recent events, this legislation must be moved now,” said Representative Jones. “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.”

Current law defines a habitual traffic offender as someone who has been convicted of three enumerated offenses (including driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, making a false statement in an application for a learner’s permit or driver’s license, leaving the scene of an accident, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, driving without a license and the use of a vehicle while committing a felony) and/or has committed 12 other general traffic offenses carrying a license suspension of 30 days or more. The caucus bill would create a tiered system of suspensions for habitual traffic offenders by adding to the existing habitual offender law two new categories, level 2 and level 3, with progressively increasing periods of license revocation.

Specifically, the bill would:

• increase the minimum period for license revocation for a first-time habitual traffic offender from 4 to 5 years;

• create a level 2 habitual traffic offender classification for individuals who have already had their license revoked for being a habitual offender, making them subject to a second revocation from 5 to 15 years;

• create a level 3 habitual traffic offender classification that provides a potential lifetime ban for offenses for more serious repeat offenders who have had previous suspensions; and

• provide the registrar of motor vehicles the authority to attach terms and conditions as the registrar deems necessary if and when returning a license to any level habitual traffic offender.

The bill’s sponsors are also offering the opportunity for their Democratic colleagues to co-sponsor the legislation.

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