Monday, March 5, 2012

Judiciary Committee to Consider Proposal to Toughen Laws for Driving Menaces

On Tuesday afternoon I will be testifying before the Judiciary Committee in support of a bill I proposed to give the Registrar of Motor Vehicles increased powers to crack down on habitual traffic offenders and suspend or revoke the licenses of dangerous drivers who pose a public safety menace on the state’s roadways.

Senate Bill 2012, An Act Promoting Motor Vehicle Safety, was filed last August, with bicameral and bipartisan support of every House and Senate Republican, as well as a dozen of my Democratic colleagues from both branches. I drafted the bill after a Taunton teenager was struck and killed by a driver whose license had been suspended 16 times over a 22-year period preceding the accident.

At the time of this tragic accident, many people – myself included – demanded to know how the Registry of Motor Vehicle could allow someone with so many prior license suspensions to still be on the road, but we soon discovered the problem was not with the Registry, but with our own laws, which are woefully inadequate for dealing with dangerous drivers. Senate Bill 2012 will correct this shortcoming and will give state and local officials the tools they need to revoke the licenses of those individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety, in some cases for life.

Current Massachusetts law defines a habitual traffic offender as someone who has been convicted of three enumerated offenses (including driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, 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 current penalty for such offenses is a loss of license for up to four years.

Senate Bill 2012 would create a tiered system of suspensions for habitual traffic offenders by creating new categories of level 2 and level 3 traffic offenders who would be subject to progressively increasing penalties. Specifically, the bill would:

• require a 5-year license revocation for first-time habitual traffic offenders;

• 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 of not less than 5 years and not more than 15 years;

• establish a level 3 habitual traffic offender classification for more serious repeat offenders who have had previous license suspensions, which would provide the Registry with the option of imposing a lifetime ban; and

• allow the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to attach any terms and conditions the Registrar deems necessary if and when returning a license to a habitual traffic offender, regardless of the level at which they are classified.

The current law needs to be changed to ensure that dangerous drivers are not given a free pass to continue to threaten public safety on our roadways. My message to the committee tomorrow will stress the need to take immediate corrective action before another innocent victim loses their life because of the reckless actions of a dangerous driver.

The Judiciary Committee hearing is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6, and will take place in hearing room A-2 at the State House. To read the actual text of the bill please click here.