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Deaths of Seven Motorcyclists Results in Resignation of Motor Vehicle Registry Chief

A pickup truck driver towing a trailer on a two-lane rural road in New Hampshire on June 21 is charged with seven counts of vehicular homicide after colliding with a group of motorcycle riders. Attention has turned to his commercial driver's license.
June 28, 2019, 12pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The horrific crash last Friday serves as a reminder that motorcyclists, while driving gas-powered motor vehicles, are classified as vulnerable road users, along with pedestrians, bicyclists, moped riders and people using human and battery-powered skateboards and scooters, because they are not protected by 'outside shields.'

"The images of the scene are gut-wrenching – a mangled mess of debris sprawled across Route Two in Randolph, N.H," states a reporter in a June 22 WMUR newscast on the crash.

Why Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, the 23-year-old truck driver, crossed the double yellow line, crashing head-on into a group of 22 riders on 15 motorcycles traveling in the opposite direction, is unknown, but questions are being asked as to why Zhukovskyy, a West Springfield, Mass., resident "was able to keep his commercial driver's license despite a drunken-driving arrest last month and a history of other serious traffic violations," reports Joey Garrison for USA TODAY on June 26 (source article).

Erin Deveney, registrar of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), a division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation which regulates commercial driver's licenses, resigned June 25, said MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack. An investigation found that "the RMV had not acted on information provided by the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles about a May 11 incident that should have triggered termination of this individual’s commercial driver’s license," adds Garrison. 

MassDOT said the May 11 OUI [operating under the influence] violations – in which he refused a chemical test – should have triggered his commercial license to be automatically revoked under Massachusetts law. His non-commercial driver's license should have been subject to a seven-day notification process for suspension.

Garrison goes on to describe a "communication breakdown" between the Connecticut DMV and the Mass. RMV. A manual review should have been initiated after an automatic notification sent by Connecticut "through the federal commercial driver's license system "was rejected due to insufficient information."  The failure to perform that review appears to be the reason for Deveney's resignation.

Driver in jail

Zhukovskyy was arrested at his Massachusetts home Monday and has pleaded not guilty to the seven charges of vehicular manslaughter, reports John Bacon for USA Today. He is being held in a jail in Lancaster, New Hampshire, according to CBS Boston.

NTSB to investigate

The National Transportation Safety Board has joined the investigation. "The federal agency says it's coordinating its safety investigation with local authorities, who are doing their own investigation on the crash," reports NBC10 Boston

NHTSA crash data

In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)'s "Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2018" [pdf] released this month, motorcyclists, as well as drivers and passengers, saw a decrease in fatalities, while pedestrian deaths jumped to their highest level in almost three decades. Bicyclist fatalities increased the highest, by 10 percent.

By contrast, in 2016, the U.S. DOT reports that "motorcyclist deaths (5,286 fatalities – the largest number of motorcyclist fatalities since 2008) increased by 5.1 percent.

For more statistical crash data on motorcycles from 2007 to 2016, see NHTSA's 9-page Traffic Safety Facts: Motorcycles [pdf].

To reinforce the inclusion of motorcyclists as vulnerable road users, the fact sheet notes (under "registration") that while motorcycles made up 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States in 2016, accounting for 0.6 percent of all vehicle miles traveled, the fatality rate for motorcyclists in 2016 was six times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants.

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Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Transportation Update.

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