‘Tina’s Law’ near passage by Legislature

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AUGUSTA (AP) – A proposal to curb Maine’s most dangerous drivers, prompted by a fatal accident last summer on the Maine Turnpike, is up for final enactment votes Friday after winning House and Senate endorsements earlier this week.

Gov. John Baldacci “absolutely” will sign the bill, known as “Tina’s Law,” if it reaches his desk, his spokeswoman said Thursday. “The governor hopes that out of this terrible tragedy something good will come,” Crystal Canney said. “The laws have been too lax for too long.”

The bill, which won House and Senate endorsements on Wednesday, is named for Tina Turcotte of Scarborough, who was killed in an accident involving a trucker with a lengthy record of motor-vehicle offenses.

Turcotte’s death prompted Baldacci to form a task force and the legislation to crack down on drivers who refuse to get off the road even after repeated suspensions and offenses.

Provisions seeking mandatory minimum sentences were refined in committee to focus on drivers with the worst motor vehicle records who are caught behind the wheel.

Efforts aside from the legislation are moving forward to get repeat motor vehicle offenders off Maine’s highways. A suspended driver Web site, which was an outgrowth of Baldacci’s task force, has proven to be a useful tool for law enforcement agencies, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said.

Launched in February, the Web site lists suspended drivers from Bureau of Motor Vehicles records. The list is updated every two weeks and can be tailored to specific areas. It is faster and more convenient for police to use than driving records, which have long been available to police departments.

In Farmington, dispatcher Bonnie Pomeroy said she prints off the updated list of names every two weeks and includes it in the materials officers’ checkout at the start of shift.

“I’m surprised every time I print off the list how many names are on it,” she said. Last count, just for Farmington, Farmington Falls and West Farmington: 160.

She said she believes that if an officer is already familiar with someone, and then sees their name on the list, they’re more likely to make a stop on suspicion of a suspended license.

“Since the service was launched nearly three months ago, approximately 400 public safety officials have used it to generate nearly 3,500 reports of suspended drivers in various geographic areas,” Dunlap said.

The suspended driver list is available to police, but federal and state laws prohibit making it available to the public, Dunlap said. A federal law barring public release was passed after violent crimes in other states in which the victims were located through drivers’ records.

The Sun Journal contributed to this report.

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