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Lack of restraint use continues to be a significant contributing factor in Rhode Island’s crash fatalities and serious injuries. Fatalities resulting from crashes where restraints were not used accounted for approximately 22 percent of the total fatalities in 2018. The safety belt use rate for Rhode Island, while steadily rising, has been well below the national rate over the last decade. The Rhode Island seat belt in 2018 was 88.8 percent, lower than the national rate of 89.6 percent. However, the increase in safety belt use also appears to be associated with the continued decline of unrestrained fatalities. OHS continues to staff a Program Coordinator for the Occupant Protection program, as well as other program areas. This has enabled OHS to enhance occupant protection programs and outreach. This includes introducing an initiative to enhance child passenger safety technician training program for fire services, rescue, and ambulance personnel.
Rhode Island data analysis of 2014-2018 data show that 30 percent of unrestrained drivers in fatal crashes are under age 25. Johnston had the highest numbers of unrestrained motor vehicle occupant fatalities according to our latest data. All this information, as well as the key recommendations from the Rhode Island Occupant Protection Assessment in April 2016 will continue to be used to develop appropriate educational and marketing materials and target enforcement activities to reduce restraint nonuse. In 2021 the Office on Highway Safety will work with NHTSA on a new OP assessment after which new or revised recommendations will be worked into Rhode Island’s Highway Safety Occupant Protection program.
Rhode Island has had a primary seat belt law (R.I.G.L. § 31-22-22) that also encompasses child restraints and child passenger safety since 2013. A complete description of this Rhode Island General law can be found in the following link at Seat Belt Laws & Car Seat Recommendations. The Office on Highway Safety at RIDOT currently supports or offers funding to the following programs that focus on seatbelt safety and child passenger safety: