CRANSTON, RI (WPRI) - The licenses of 11,500 Rhode Island drivers are suspended for not filing a Department of Motor Vehicles accident report and some may not even know they're driving illegally.
"It's absolutely frustrating," Matt Ezyk told Target 12, adding that he didn't know about the form and was surprised to find out his license was suspended for not filing it. "You think that you're safe and everything is all set, but you're not. It's a nightmare."
Ezyk failed to file the three-page form with the DMV after a 2009 accident in Lincoln.
"I wasn't at fault," Ezyk said. "When I went to pick up the accident report at the police station, I asked them, is there anything else I need to do? (They said) no."
But about seven months later, Ezyk was pulled over for an alleged taillight violation and was told by the officer his license had been suspended.
The suspensions attracted statewide attention after WPRO radio talk show host Matt Allen dissected the issue during a couple of recent episodes. Dozens of callers told Allen and his audience that they didn't know about the DMV accident report requirement.
According to the law, Rhode Island drivers are required to file a ‘motor vehicle accident report' with the DMV if they're involved in a collision that involves at least $1000 in damage or an injury. That report is in addition to the accident report filled out by police and now electronically sent to the DMV.
DMV administrator Anthony Silva tells Target 12 the law was put on the books about 30 years ago to supplement local police reports.
"At that point, police reports were one page long and the state needed more information to protect drivers when there was damage or injury," Silva said. "Now, police reports are very comprehensive and filed with us electronically. "
Silva said the DMV sends letters to drivers who have their licenses suspended for not filing the form, but he understands that, for various reasons, some still may not realize their licenses are suspended. Silva, the former Cumberland police chief, experienced the issue first hand last summer, a short time after taking over the top spot at the DMV.
"It happened to the wife of a friend of mine," Silva said. "She got into an accident and then was pulled over at a later date and found out her license was suspended."
According to Silva, the DMV stopped suspending licenses in November for not filing the form after he noticed the number of suspended licenses. Silva added that most of 11,500 who didn't file the form also have other DMV issues that would cause their licenses to be suspended,but he said there are enough impacted drivers to make some changes.
"We think it may be in the thousands," Silva said when asked how many may have suspended licenses for only not filing the DMV form. "Or at least the hundreds."
The confusion and redundancy convinced Silva to work toward eliminating the DMV motor vehicle accident report.
"We took a good look at the accident reporting system and we felt that we just weren't doing a service to the residents of Rhode Island," Silva said. "It's all about customer service."
Silva said a few changes will be made to the states ‘uniform accident report' and once that is processed, drivers will not have to file anything with the DMV. Silva expects those changes to be finalized by July.
You can check your driving record on the state's DMV website at a cost of 19.50.
Reinstating a suspended license costs $151.50 but Silva said despite the confusion, there are no plans to waive those fees.
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