Colorado has huge backlog of licenses to suspend
December 9, 2008
DENVER ” An estimated 3,000 Colorado drivers who should have lost their licenses can still drive legally because of a huge backlog at the Department of Motor Vehicles, officials say.
It can take up to seven months for a driver’s license to be suspended for traffic violations because the state has only 17 hearing officers to handle the cases, KMGH-TV in Denver reported Monday.
Each officer conducts about 2,000 hearings a year, the station said.
“Several months may pass by before you can actually get on the docket in the hearings section,” said Matt Cook, head of enforcement for the DMV.
“Until you have a hearing or fail to respond to the opportunity to have a hearing, you’re still licensed,” he said.
The exceptions are drunken-driving or vehicular homicide cases. State law requires that those cases get a hearing within 60 days of the conviction.
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Asked whether the backlog is a public safety issue, Cook said, “I would perceive it as a public safety issue, but those priorities are set by our General Assembly.”
The Colorado State Patrol was unaware that so many motorists thought to be off the road were still driving, said spokesman Sgt. John Hahn.
“I think the risk is apparent,” Hahn said. “That obviously poses something of a traffic safety concern for us.”
Terrance Carroll, the incoming speaker of the Colorado House, said he is considering a state audit to find out what caused the backlog.
“I’m absolutely flabbergasted, and then I’m trying to figure out what broke down in the system that these people still have their licenses even after committing driving offenses that should have cost them to lose their license,” Carroll said. “Now that I’m aware of the problem, the next step is get everyone in the same room together and figure out what we can do and what we can’t do to move forward.”
Cook said one solution would be to charge drivers with more serious offenses, such as vehicular homicide or aggravated assault with a motor vehicle, where the law allows for quicker suspension.
Colorado assigns points to traffic violations, ranging from 1 for a minor speeding infraction to 12 for DUI and other crimes. If a driver accrues 12 points in 12 months, the license is suspended. The limit is lower for young drivers.