Suspended Disbelief: Thousands Wrongly Informed About Suspended License in MA

By: Bridget Clerkin April 25, 2018
The Massachusetts RMV scrambled to correct a computer mistake that caused them to send out nearly 10,000 suspended driver's license notifications in error.
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They say not to believe everything you read, and that advice is especially prudent for Massachusetts residents right now.

Thousands of Bay State citizens were told last week that their licenses had been suspended by the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) due to outstanding unpaid fees. Some were also notified that they would be fined up to $1,200 for the mistaken mishap.

All told, the error officially filtered to 9,700 residents after a glitch in the agency’s computer software triggered the sending of the erroneous letters.

State workers quickly corrected the hiccup, they said, and a second round of letters was sent out informing those who received the untrue update that they were still okay in the eyes of the law—though some residents remained worried and confused about the situation several days later.

Still, it wasn’t the first time the RMV has experienced technical difficulties this year.

The issue was the latest hitch with the agency’s new ATLAS computer system, which was installed to help the state transition to federally-compliant REAL IDs. Replacing software that had been in use for 30 years, the new program officially went online in March.

A rocky rollout of the new tech led to hours-long lines at RMV offices around the state last month, but it was causing troubles even before its debut.

About 1,500 child support payments made since the start of the year were delayed as they traveled through the new digital channels, and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue also recently acknowledged that the private information of nearly 39,000 taxpayers stored at the department was exposed in a five-month-long data breach stretching from last August to this January.

For their part, the RMV has apologized to those wrongfully notified, but the agency may need to save its biggest mea culpa for Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who made the careful oversight of state departments a big part of his campaign.

As for now, though, it seems the agency has done enough to appease the statehouse, with a Baker representative telling the Boston Globe that the governor “appreciates the Registry’s prompt response” to the situation.

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