By now, almost everyone in Massachusetts, as well as people around the country, have learned of the operational disasters inside the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (“Massachusetts DOT” below) and Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (“Massachusetts RMV” below), which led to the simultaneous deaths of seven motorcyclists in June in New Hampshire in one horrific accident. Almost all of the victims of this tragedy were war veterans who had served overseas, when they were all struck by a truck driver whose Massachusetts driver’s license was not suspended as it should have been by Massachusetts DOT and Massachusetts RMV officials, due to multiple prior out of state driving violations that the RMV had been notified of, but never acted on. Aside from the seven persons killed in that crash, three other persons were very seriously injured. The truck driver who hit these people was not injured. When the accident occurred, that truck driver was on Route 2 in Randolph, New Hampshire, driving a black 2016 Dodge 2500 pickup truck towing an empty car carrier trailer, when he veered into the motorcyclists, members of the “Jarheads Motorcycle Club” (“Jarheads” is a term that is often used to refer to soldiers.)
According to a federal investigators, that truck driver, 23-year-old West Springfield resident Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, claimed he was reaching for a beverage when his pickup truck swerved into the group of motorcyclists. The investigators report states otherwise: That when he was arrested on the scene, Zhukovsky was high on a narcotic or amphetamine. He never should have been on the road, and if Massachusetts DOT and RMV personnel had acted as they should have, he almost certainly wouldn’t have been.
If you think the above is bad enough, it gets worse. A lot worse. Zhukovskyy worked as a truck driver for a western Massachusetts trucking company called Westfield Transport. He had a Massachusetts commercial driver’s license (CDL), and in the process of driving across the country, he racked up a lengthy list of serious driving violations in a number of states, having been previously stopped and cited for drunk and drugged driving by several other police departments outside of Massachusetts. Those out of state authorities notified Massachusetts DOT and RMV officials of those events. The Massachusetts DOT and RMV should have then immediately suspended Zhokovsky’s Massachusetts driver’s license. But they didn’t.
Here’s a sample of just how many times, and how many different state police departments and/or state DMV’s had either arrested and/or charged Zhukovsky owithseveral different motor vehicle violations: Before beginning with other states, Zhukovskyy’s license had also been previously been suspended for drunk driving here in Massachusetts, in Westfield. He had also been arrested this past winter in February in Baytown, Texas, after police there said they found a crackpipe in his pocket. Once more in Texas, he was involved in a rollover crash in that state just weeks before the fatal June 21 crash in New Hampshire.
And just weeks before this June New Hampshire tragedy, Zhukovskyy was arrested for driving under the influence, on May 21 in Connecticut. Zhukovsky refused to take a chemical test in that Connecticut arrest, and Connecticut authorities sent a printed notice to the Massachusetts DOT/RMV notifying them of this incident. Upon receipt of that notice of an out of state DUI charge, the Massachusetts DOT/RMV should have suspended his operator’s license. But they didn’t, which caused him to be driving in New Hampshire the day those seven motorcyclists were killed and three others seriously injured.
These events caused an understandable eruption within the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation which oversees the Mass. RMV. The resulting inquiry as to how and why Massachusetts officials never suspended Zhukovsky’s driver’s license, blew the top off one of the most unbelievable stories of mismanagement and gross negligence imaginable by state officials: It was discovered that thousands of out-of-state driver’s license suspension notices, which had been sent to the Massachusetts DOT by many states, had been – literally – stuffed and stored in boxes inside a state facility in Quincy, never acted on – never even opened. Yes, that previous sentence is correct – and the effective translation is as follows: Thousands of dangerous Massachusetts drivers were allowed to stay on the road, when their licenses should have been suspended here long ago. An even simpler translation? Your lives, my life, and the lives of our loved ones, were thrown like dice on to a betting table, every day. Until a tragedy like the one that killed seven war veterans and injured three others, eventually and inevitably occurred.
I’m a Boston motor vehicle accident attorney. I also specialize in Massachusetts truck accidents. I’ve seen thousands of preventable accidents, of a wide variety. But the incompetence exhibited within this Massachusetts RMV scandal, as it has appropriately been termed, exceeds adequate description. In Part Two of this post, I’ll discuss what I believe should be done to both correct, and discipline, the Massachusetts DOT and RMV personnel responsible for this tragedy.