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Drivers keep licenses despite violations

Dozens of Maryland drivers who had racked up enough penalty points to lose their licenses apparently got some extra time behind the wheel thanks to a software glitch at the Motor Vehicle Administration, according to state auditors.

The audit, made public last week, found that over a six month period ending in May 2009, MVA officials were not aware that at least 139 drivers had accumulated 12 points -- enough to have a license revoked -- but were still being allowed to drive.

The findings were the result of a review of 5,515 cases by the Office of Legislative Audits, as part of a review that also listed 12 other problems.

Of 20 cases that auditors examined in more detail involving people with 12 points, four licenses had actually been revoked, though those actions didn't show up in computer records.

MVA officials were not aware of the problem until informed by auditors over a year ago, but agency administrator John T. Kuo said that all the missed cases were immediately examined and revocation letters sent to the drivers. A software glitch in early 2008 caused the problem, officials said.

"We looked at this. None [of the drivers] were involved in any crashes." he said. The programming problem was also fixed. Kuo said that with 4 million Maryland drivers, "the monitoring process is largely automated."

Another problem involved the state's ignition interlock program, which allows drivers who are being monitored for drunken driving to use their vehicles only after blowing into a device on the ignition to prove that they are not intoxicated. Those who fail the breath test four times, fail the program and have their licenses suspended.

But the audit found that MVA had not reviewed rare cases where workers manually changed the result of the tests. In one case, one driver was allowed to "graduate" from the program despite five violations. In another, someone with four violations had one removed, allowing the driver to stay behind the wheel without any written justification. The program had 7,124 people enrolled during fiscal year 2009.

-- The Baltimore Sun

By Michael Bolden  | October 26, 2010; 8:39 AM ET
Categories:  Maryland, Transportation News, Transportation Politics  
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