Outside the Danvers branch of the Registry of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday, Congressman Seth Moulton publicly announced legislation he's filed in hopes of making it easier for traffic safety officials to share information about drivers across state lines.
The legislation comes in response to the crash involving a commercial truck driver this June that killed seven members of a motorcycle club in Randolph, New Hampshire. After that crash, the Massachusetts RMV discovered that it should have suspended the commercial license of the truck driver prior to the incident because, in May, he had been arrested in Connecticut on charges of OUI and resisting a chemical test.
"It's time to modernize how the RMV and DMVs across the country share information, so that dangerous drivers are taken off the road," Moulton posted Tuesday on Facebook.
In Danvers, the congressman outlined his State and Federal Electronic Data Records to Improve Vehicle-operator Eligibility Reporting Systems (SAFE DRIVERS) Act of 2019, which would make changes to a grant program to help states digitize the notification systems they use to send each other information about drivers.
The ultimate goal of the bill is to help lead to the creation of a national, real-time data sharing program, Moulton's office said.
In addition to changing how State Traffic Safety Information System Improvements grant money from the federal government can be spent, Moulton's bill would also create a $50 million competitive grant program that would allow states to bid for additional grant money and would enable the U.S. Department of Transportation to connect states that have similar modernization needs.
One of the new purposes Moulton wants states to be able to put their federal grant money towards is "improving the compatibility and interoperability of the core highway safety databases of the state with national data systems and data systems of other states," according to a summary of the legislation.
Late last week, the U.S. House referred Moulton's bill to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which then assigned it to its own Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
About two weeks ago, Gov. Charlie Baker called for a national system to alert states immediately whenever one of their drivers incurs a violation in another state, a process that potentially could have kept a Massachusetts man off the road before he allegedly killed seven motorcyclists in the New Hampshire crash.
States currently put information about incidents into the National Driver Registry, but the database is usually only checked by registries when drivers attempt to renew their licenses, allowing notices of violations to go unnoticed.
"Someday, I think it would behoove all 50 states to come up with a far more technologically sophisticated National Driver Registry where, when the state of Massachusetts sends a notification to the National Driver Registry about somebody on Massachusetts roads who's from New York, the driver registry would automatically ping the state of New York and tell them," Baker said during an appearance on WGBH's "Boston Public Radio" last month. "In the meantime, everybody's opening up a lot of mail."
The process for states to directly notify other states of driver infractions also has its issues. In Massachusetts, the department responsible for handling warnings effectively ignored them for years, allowing drivers who should have had licenses suspended to remain on the road. The RMV has since worked to clear the backlog and to cross-check all 5.2 million drivers against the national database.