Office on Highway Safety
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.
Rhode Island has a significant impaired driving problem. On average, Rhode Island law enforcement agencies arrest approximately 3,000 drivers for driving under the influence every year. In calendar year 2022, nearly 70 percent of arrested persons refused to submit to chemical testing. The people who did submit had a blood alcohol concentration of approximately 0.17, more than twice the legal limit.
The national average regarding alcohol-impaired driving fatalities typically averages around 30 percent. Our state is well above the national average and sits squarely amongst the states with the worst percentages in the nation - 43.7 percent in 2022. Data for 2023 is not yet available, because it takes a long time for us to know definitively that impairment was a factor in a crash.
What We Are Doing
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 and projects. These included:
- "Beyond the Crash" – This program included stories told from the perspective of police officers and the wide gamut of experiences from responding to impaired driving related fatalities to making personal notifications to friends and family that their loved one was killed in a crash.
- "Ripple Effect" – Expanding on the stories of the first series, this new set of stories focused on the many people affected by one single impaired driving fatality. Parents and friends of those killed in drunk driving crashes tell their stories, and like ripples expanding from a rock tossed into the water, one person’s decision to drive while impaired caused someone to die, rippling into the lives of family, friends and coworkers.
- "Ripple Effect – Take Action" – this second year of Ripple Effect stories featured a call to action to family, friends, even total strangers to take an active role in preventing someone from getting behind the wheel while impaired. Whether it’s arranging for ride home, taking their keys or some other action, the public service advertisements make it clear that it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep impaired drivers off the road.
Other significant efforts RIDOT has engaged with to combat impaired driving:
- RI State Police “Traffic Safety Unit” - RIDOT in 2019 entered a unique partnership with the RISP which continues to this day. For the first time, we have a year-round dedicated unit whose sole job is to look for impaired drivers. Troopers are on the highways every night of the week looking for impaired drivers. This very successful project has resulted in the arrest of nearly 1,200 impaired drivers and the issuance of nearly 17,000 citations.
- The Impaired Driving Engagement Council - Administered through the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association, the mission of the Council is to promote the use of effective countermeasures in support of the impaired driving goals and objectives of the State of Rhode Island. It includes a diverse group of stakeholders and partners from a variety of agencies, organizations, and disciplines all collaborating to combat impaired driving.
- Tori Lynn Andreozzi Foundation’s “Community Conversation”- This effort involves a series of engaging community conversations at various strategic locations across the entire state. It brings together many different stakeholders including government officials, state and local law enforcement, prevention and treatment experts, and members of the community to have honest and frank conversations about the impaired driving issue our state faces.