The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is joining national efforts to encourage safe driving throughout the holiday season.
Law enforcement efforts across the country will focus on drinking and driving, and motorists can expect to see an increased police presence on the roads through the New Year celebrations. Nationwide in December 2009, 753 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes.
"Simple precautions such as designating a sober driver and buckling a seat belt can go a long way toward reducing the number of serious injuries and deaths that occur on the nation's roadways at this time of the year," RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. "The holidays are certainly a time to celebrate. We just ask that everyone does so safely."
While detecting, arresting and prosecuting alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers is a priority for State and local law enforcement agencies year round, national statistics show a greater incidence of fatalities and serious injuries during the holiday season. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 37 percent of the fatalities that occur over the holiday season are alcohol-related. Adding extra patrols acts as deterrent to motorists who do not heed the message to "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over."
"There will be no spreading holiday cheer behind the bars of a jail cell," said Daniel T. DiBiasio, RIDOT's Chief of State Highway Safety Programs. "Don't let your 2011 holiday season end in an arrest or worse, death. Remember, whether you've had way too many or just one too many, it's not worth the risk."
Seat belt use also will be a priority locally, as safety restraints can be a motorists' best defense against drunk drivers. Rhode Island continues to increase awareness of the State's new primary seat belt law. Enacted June 30, 2011, the law allows law enforcement officers to cite motorists at any time for not buckling up. Under the prior law, drivers had to be pulled over for another offense before they could be ticketed for not wearing a safety restraint.
RIDOT's most recent statistics shows that approximately 80 percent of Rhode Island drivers and passengers are wearing their seat belts, the first time the State has reached that mark.
"The results of this study are encouraging, and we hope that drivers and passengers will continue to realize the value of wearing a seat belt," Lewis said. "As someone who has survived a rollover accident, I can tell you first hand that seat belts save lives. It only takes a second and greatly decreases your odds of being hurt or killed in a crash."
RIDOT also is reminding drivers of the resources available to make their holiday travel easier. Travel time information along I-95 and live traffic cameras are available online at www.tmc.dot.ri.gov, and more information can be found by calling 511 or listening Highway Advisory Radio (1630 AM).
Contact: Bryan Lucier 401-222-1362 x4012