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Following Deadly Crash, N.H. DMV Rushes to Process Thousands of Backlogged Notifications

Todd Bookman/NHPR

New Hampshire motor vehicle officials say that until recently, the state had a backlog of more than 22,000 unprocessed DMV notifications, echoing a backlog that came to light in Massachusetts following a devastating car crash earlier this summer.

The New Hampshire numbers come as part of an internal review prompted by an accident in Randolph, N.H. that left seven motorcyclists dead. Volodymyr Zhukovskyy was driving a truck that allegedly crossed the double yellow-line striking the bikers.

A previous DUI arrest in Connecticut should have resulted in a suspension of his commercial driver’s license, however, officials in Massachusetts failed to process that notification.  

When the N.H. DMV reviewed how it handles both in-state and out-of-state infractions and suspensions, it found what Department of Safety Commissioner Bob Quinn called a “pattern of tardiness.”

“The review uncovered a long history of New Hampshire DMV manual processing falling behind. This dated back decades,” said Quinn during a press conference on Wednesday. 

New Hampshire says since the accident, it has closed its own backlog of unprocessed notifications. That included 62 commercial drivers license notices that resulted in seven new license suspensions. Officials also rushed to process 13,015 out-of-state notices, some of which dated back to September 2017. That resulted in an additioanl 904 New Hampshire license suspensions.  

The internal review also found 9,232 unprocessed in-state court default notices that dated back to 2017.

“We just said, all hands on deck, we are going to catch up manually no matter what it takes,” said Gov. Chris Sununu.

As a result of the internal review, New Hampshire also began sending paper notifications to other state DMVs following suspensions in New Hampshire, something it stopped doing more than three years ago.

The June crash caused a swift fall-out in Massachusetts, where the head of the Registry of Motor Vehicles was forced to resign. Officials there say hundreds of thousands of out-of-state notices accumulated unprocessed for more than 15 months, with many of those records reportedly stored in boxes in a warehouse.

“There was massive systematic failure within the state of Massachusetts,” said Sununu. “It’s really an apples to oranges comparison.”

In New Hampshire, DMV employees continued to process notifications, but were simply unable to keep up with the volume of notices. N.H. DMV Director Elizabeth Bielecki says even before the June crash, her employees were working to integrate a new software system that will automate the processing of some notifications. 

During Wednesday's press conference, Sununu said he is ordering a comprehensive review of all state and federal laws surrounding DMV notifications. He said one “unintended consequence” of New Hampshire’s strict driver privacy laws is that the state is unable to share certain records with some entities, something he said he’ll push to revise. 

Zhukovskyy pleaded not guilty to seven counts of negligent homicide for his role in the Randolph crash. He remains in custody, with a trial scheduled for later this year.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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