- Ted Kennedy had a record of serious traffic violations. Their nature formed a pattern of deliberate and repeated negligent operation. Particularly bothersome was a June, 1958 conviction for "reckless driving."
- On March 14, 1958, Deputy Sheriff Thomas Whitten had been on routine highway patrol outside Charlottesville, Virginia, when an Oldsmobile convertible ran a red light, sped off, then cut its tail lights to elude pursuit. A license check revealed the car belonged to Edward M. Kennedy, a 26-year-old law student attending the University of Virginia. Kennedy had previously been fined $15 for speeding in March 1957.
- Whitten was on patrol at the same intersection a week later, he testified, "And here comes the same car. And to my surprise, he did exactly the same thing. He raced through the same red light, cut his lights when he got to the corner and made the right turn." Whitten gave chase. He found the car in a driveway, apparently unoccupied. Looking inside, he discovered the driver, Teddy Kennedy, stretched out on the front seat and hiding. Whitten issued a ticket for "reckless driving; racing with an officer to avoid arrest; and operating a motor vehicle without an operator's license (Mass. registration.)"
- Kennedy's attorneys were able to win numerous postponements, but eventually he was convicted on all charges and paid a $35 fine. Court officials never filed the mandatory notice of the case in the public docket, however, and Kennedy's name had not appeared on any arrest blotter. Instead, a local reporter discovered the case when he spotted 5 warrants in Kennedy's name in a court cash drawer.
- Three weeks after his trial, Ted Kennedy was caught speeding again, and still operating without a valid license.
- In December 1959, Kennedy was stopped again for running a red light and fined $10 and costs. In Whitten's view, "That boy had a heavy foot and a mental block against the color red. He was a careless, reckless driver who didn't seem to have any regard for speed limits or traffic ordinances."
- The offenses in Virginia had occurred on Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts driver's license, but mysteriously neither the Registry of Motor Vehicles nor the office of probation in Cambridge had any record of the out-of-state convictions. Had it been revealed at the inquest, the Senator's history of negligence and reckless driving would have been further evidence to support a charge of manslaughter in the Chappaquiddick accident.
~ Senatorial Privilege by Leo Damore
- Senator Kennedy's driver's license had expired on February 22, 1969 (nearly 5 months before the accident at Chappaquiddick) and had not been renewed.
- Although driving with an expired license was only a misdemeanor, it did provide the evidence of negligence needed to prove a manslaughter charge in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.
- The license problem was "fixed" by officials at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, under the direction of Registrar Richard McLaughlin, before the legal proceedings began.