Office on Highway Safety

Impaired Driving

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.

The Numbers

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.

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. 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.

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.

Interactive | Media

Remembering Amber Pelletier through the eyes of her mother, Becky St. George

RIDOT has built a dedicated page for its Ripple Effect program. Here are some examples of our latest videos.

Latest Ripple Effect Videos