Mistakes Keep Dangerous Drivers On the Road

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Troubleshooters investigated how the state allowed hundreds of drivers to stay on the road for years when their licenses should have been suspended. (Published Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013)

    Trooper Joseph Smigel patrols Connecticut state roads every day. If he catches you speeding by, he'll pull out his ticket pad.

    Tens of thousands of state drivers who get a traffic ticket like the ones Trooper Smigel hands out choose to pay their violations online through the states E-pay program. But the Troubleshooters uncovered a flaw in the system. E-pay was introduced two years ago and since then we found over a thousand drivers who should have had their licenses suspended either did not, or were not required to take driver retraining classes to legally be on the road.

    "31,126 cases were not reported to the DMV,” said Stacey Manware, Deputy Director of Superior Court Operations for Connecticut’s court system.

    Because of a computer glitch, the state Judicial Branch wasn't telling the Department of Motor Vehicles when someone was convicted of a moving violation--if they paid for it online. So that conviction never went on the driver's history.

    "Were drivers in Connecticut in danger because of this computer glitch?" asked our Troubleshooter.
    "There were people on the road that may have been suspended,” answered Manware.

    The state caught the problem last November after drivers who were expecting sanctions on their licenses started asking questions themselves.  In January, the DMV mailed over 30,000 copies of three different letters to inform drivers that those old tickets were now catching up with them.

    It was not a big deal for most of the drivers. But 319 people got a letter informing them their license was finally being suspended--two years late. And over 1,000 people got a letter telling them they have to take driver retraining classes or else face “suspension of your license.”

    "For two years we were not reporting cases to DMV,” said Manware.
    "And that's a violation of state statue?" asked our reporter.
    "That's correct,” answered Manware.

    Turns out in this case the very branch of state government that's supposed to uphold the law was actually violating state statute, since it is required to report these convictions to the DMV.

    “We wouldn't know unless they told us,” said DMV spokesman Bill Seymour.

    Seymour said that as soon as the agency learned of the problem, they took action by updating driver histories and informing the public. But the problem goes beyond the DMV.

    “Law enforcement checks our records,” said Seymour.

    That meant officers like Trooper Smigel who may have stopped one of these drivers in the last two years didn't have some of the information they rely on.

    "It's a system of checks and balances that we have in place with our agencies,” explained Lt. Paul Vance of the State Police.

    Judicial said it's fixed the problem, and the DMV said it has imposed the proper sanctions on any drivers who skated through on that computer glitch.  Still, the question remains—how, for two years, no one noticed the E-pay system never worked the way it was intended--allowing unsafe drivers to stay on the road right next to you and your family.

    “It was just something that happened,” said Manware.

    She said from now on, Judicial will check and recheck any new systems they introduce.

    Meantime, officials told us all of the unnoticed convictions were for moving violations like speeding and failure to stop at a stop sign.  Criminal matters like DUIs were not affected.