Nearly 1,000 Massachusetts drivers with five or more drunken-driving convictions are still on the roads legally, with licenses in their wallets, even after Melanie's Law made lifetime revocation mandatory — according to state data obtained by the Boston Herald. Registry of Motor Vehicles data indicates an astonishing 947 drivers have five or more OUI convictions that predated the 2006 law, and still have active licenses — a frightening figure that averages nearly three chronic offenders for every town in the state.
“I don't think it's hyperbole to categorize this as a crisis,” said Rep. Harold Naughton, who co-chairs the Legislature's Public Safety Committee. He called the revelation “an opportunity” to “set up some hearings as to whether we need to tighten up the licensing criteria.” Registrar Rachel Kaprielian, whose agency produced the data at the Herald's request, called the figure “unnerving.” Kaprielian said because the drivers are grandfathered in, there is little authorities can do until they re-offend — when the law holds that each driver's priors will be taken into account, automatically triggering lifetime revocation. Drunken-driving's high recidivism rate means any one of those 947 drivers — despite six years without a conviction — is “very likely” to end up dangerously drunk behind the wheel and in a courtroom again soon, said Dr. James Fell of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.