Connecticut DMV Employee Says Agency Fails Driver-Training Standards

March 11, 2008

An agent for Connecticut’s Department of Motor Vehicles has accused the agency of failing to consistently enforce its own standards in driver training and retraining.

Commissioner Robert M. Ward disputes the assertion, but has ordered reports by James Ricci to be investigated. Ward also said a top DMV investigator is looking into Ricci’s allegations that supervisors failed to act on his reports.

In June 2005, during a surprise visit to a state-required driver retraining class for habitual violators conducted by a private contractor in Waterbury, the teacher told students how to avoid arrest for speeding, saying “the best time to avoid getting a ticket was between noon and one o’clock,” Ricci wrote in a report.

The students also were told that if their license was suspended they could not drive, “but if they did, they should be careful,” Ricci wrote.

His report said the contractor running the class violated its legal obligation to teach offenders to obey the law. And he said he heard essentially the same message during three visits to the class and that his superiors never took significant action.

Ricci said he wrote reports over 21/2 years alleging more than 50 violations by private driving schools teaching new drivers or retraining habitual offenders. He said little or nothing was done.

“Safety is taking the back seat to ‘go along to get along,'” Ricci said in an interview with The Hartford Courant last week.

What good is it to pass new laws, Ricci asked, when the DMV is unable or unwilling to enforce existing laws, even the easy ones?

Ward said he expects a first report by Friday on an investigation he ordered into Ricci’s reports.

“The questions he has raised are serious, and that’s why I thought we should look into them,”Ward said.

But Ward said that if Ricci believes he’s the only DMV employee who takes regulation and enforcement seriously, “I think he’s perhaps taking too narrow a focus.”

Ward said the DMV can improve the consistency of its driver testing, perhaps by using high-tech measures such as global satellite to track the routes and speed of cars in which new drivers take their license tests. And he said he is organizing a conference at the DMV soon on teen driving issues, including whether the DMV imposes appropriate sanctions on driving schools for violations.

The DMV said Sunday it has begun a review of training and licensing of young drivers in an effort to make tests tougher and more comprehensive.

Information from: The Hartford Courant

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