DC Courts or DMV — Who’s to blame for license issue at the heart of Rock Creek Parkway crash?

D.C. Councilmembers have weighed in on the back and forth between the DC Superior Court and Mayor’s office as the District’s branches search for answers to a single question: How did a repeat DUI offender who killed three people in a crash still have a license?

The DC Mayor’s office and courts said 43-year-old Nikita Walker should not have been licensed to drive on March 15 when she caused a deadly head-on crash along Rock Creek Parkway, killing three people.

Officials said Walker had at least three prior DUI convictions in the District before the Rock Creek Parkway incident and two more in nearby Northern Virginia.

D.C. Deputy Mayor Lucinda Babers, who oversees the DMV, initially blamed the city’s high court for failing to notify her office about the convictions. During a D.C. Council roundtable on May 23, Babers testified that she found out from press reports that Walker had three DUIs on record.

“D.C. DMV had notification of none of them,” she claimed.

Babers said that if her office had known, they could have suspended Walker’s license. The DC Superior Court took exception to Babers’ remarks, and fired back quickly, revealing that the data on Walker had been transferred successfully to DMV offices.

“Evidence has been shared with District officials, indicating the computer transmissions of information in the cases connected to Ms. Nakita Walker were each successfully shared with the D.C. DMV’s computer system,” said Doug Buchanan, Director of Media and Public Relations for DC Courts.

WTOP caught up with Mayor Muriel Bowser on May 26 at an event to ask her if she had a response to all the back and forth.

“We will…any other questions?” Bowser asked.

D.C. Council chair Charles Allen said he requested answers by June 1 from the DMV. The councilman, in a hearing on traffic safety, also penned a letter to the D.C. DMV on May 24 to figure out where the breakdown in communication occurred.

He told WTOP that he wants to know about the DMV’s delivery of information system in order to understand how they report on prior convictions.

“What I really want to do is find out from the DMV: Why did they not take action? What was the problem? How many more people might there be [whose license] should be suspended?” Allen told WTOP.

“I think there was clearly a failure that took place,” he added. “Lives were lost. We really have to drill down to figure out where we failed and how we fix this.”

When WTOP asked Councilman Allen who he felt was to blame for what happened on Rock Creek Parkway, he pulled no punches.

“The courts have been very responsive when giving us the information we were looking for,” he said. “The DMV needs to do the same. From everything I’ve seen, it rests with the DMV right now.”

Matt Kaufax

A Northern Virginia native who grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, Matt is thrilled to be back home in the D.C. metro area covering news for a station he grew up listening to. Keeping the community he calls home informed about the day's events is something he considers an honor and privilege.

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