MADD urges update to Massachusetts drunk driving law


BOSTON (WPRI/AP) — As Massachusetts lawmakers are preparing to scrutinize the troubles at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is calling for updates to the state’s drunk driving laws. 

The Legislature’s Committee on Transportation announced Monday that it is planning to hold an oversight hearing in July to conduct a public examination of what it called “the management, notice and record-keeping issues” at the registry.

The hearing is prompted by a June 21 New Hampshire motorcycle crash that killed seven.

Connecticut officials twice alerted Massachusetts about a drunken driving arrest against the driver in the crash, 23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, of West Springfield, but Massachusetts failed to act to suspend his license. Zhukovskyy pleaded not guilty.

More than 800 Massachusetts drivers since had their licenses suspended as officials continue to discover notifications of serious out-of-state driving violations that had not been acted on.

In the wake of the crash, MADD is pushing for an “all-offender interlock bill.”

“We’re looking for it to get passed for all offenders, meaning first-time offenders,” MADD Program Director Mary Kate DePamphilis explained. “Statistics show a first-time offender isn’t a first-time offender. They’ve driven 80 up to 200 times before their arrest.”

DePamphilis said Massachusetts is the only state in the nation that doesn’t allow for in-car breathalyzers for first-time drunk driving offenders. She told Eyewitness News Tuesday night that MADD has pushed for a change regarding that for the past 11 years.

“There’s no excuse to not be up-to-date with the systems and to not be sharing updated information. Obviously, as this crash showed, it’s vital,” she said. “Seven lives were lost in New Hampshire and it shouldn’t have happened.”

Though the legislative session has wrapped for the summer, DePamphilis said the crash has heightened MADD’s call for change. While the interlock bill has been introduced in Massachusetts before, she said now is the time to get it passed.

“I just hope that this is a wake-up call for the legislators and that these people have not lost their lives in vain,” she said.

DePamphilis said the national president of MADD is flying to Boston at the end of the month to meet with lawmakers. She’s hoping to get a hearing on the interlock bill this fall and says Governor Charlie Baker is on board with it.

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