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Stopping the senseless death and serious injuries caused each year by impaired driving is among our highest priorities. Our education and outreach efforts are nothing short or culture-changing; to influence behavior with direct and frank messaging to connote impaired driving as socially unacceptable and implore drivers to take responsibility for their safety and those of anyone they encounter who is about to make the terrible decision to get behind the wheel while impaired.
We’ve made some strides in reducing alcohol impaired driving deaths – down from 41 percent in 2017 to 34 percent in 2018 – the numbers remain alarmingly high. Twenty of the 59 fatalities in 2018 involved someone who was legally intoxicated.
We still rank above the national average (29 percent) and still in the top third of states with the highest percentage of fatalities involving impaired drivers. Data for 2019 is not yet available, because it takes a long time for us to know definitively that impairment was a factor in a crash.
On average, Rhode Island law enforcement agencies arrest approximately 3,000 drivers for driving under the influence every year. The average offender has a blood alcohol content of approximately .17 - more than twice the legal limit.
RIDOT has led the charge to bring forth the issue of impaired driving in a very personal and direct way through a series of advertising campaigns. Instead of relying on rebranding of national drunk driving campaigns, RIDOT has coordinated with its many safety partners, most prominently the Rhode Island State Police (RISP) on locally produced public service announcements. These included:
RIDOT in 2019 entered a unique partnership with the RISP. For the first time, we have a year-round dedicated unit whose sole job is to look for impaired drivers. In just its first month of operation in late 2019, RISP’s new Traffic Safety Unit arrested 90 people – 49 of them for driving under the influence – and issued 684 citations. In addition, 56 crashes were investigated – with nearly 30 percent of them involving a suspected impaired driver.
RIDOT has built a dedicated page for its Ripple Effect program. Here are some examples of our latest videos.
Latest Ripple Effect Videos