When a motorist with a New York drivers license is involved in a fatal crash, the Department of Motor Vehicles may hold a hearing to determine whether that person should maintain his or her driving privileges. In practice, these DMV hearings have been wildly inconsistent and often result in zero consequences for deadly motorists. Over the last few years, advocates have called for standardized practices from DMV to suspend or revoke the licenses of drivers whose recklessness behind the wheel leads to serious injury or death.
But a review of recent hearings after fatal crashes reveals no apparent rhyme or reason to the penalties for deadly driving meted out by DMV.
Currently there are 39 cases on the DMV site involving drivers who were identified by NYPD or the media as having fatally struck a New York City pedestrian or cyclist, of which 34 have been resolved. (This probably undercounts the number of such cases, but NYPD shields the names of drivers who kill people unless charges are filed, so in many instances there’s no way for the public to link a driver to a specific crash. The DMV also doesn’t publish victims’ names, making a comprehensive account very difficult.)
There are two basic categories of DMV license penalties — revocations and suspensions. Drivers with revoked licenses can reapply after a time period set by the DMV, which then determines whether or not to restore driving privileges. A revocation is more severe than a suspension, which allows a driver to get his or her license back after a certain period of time simply by paying a fee.
Of the 34 cases that have been decided, the DMV revoked the licenses of 11 drivers, suspended 13, and took no action against 10. Of the 13 suspended drivers, five received 90-day suspensions, three received 365-day suspensions, and one each received suspensions of 75, 120, and 180 days, while two drivers were suspended for an undisclosed time period pending a hearing.
Rather than a consistent system, DMV judges appear to apply random penalties.