RHODE ISLAND SETS NEW RECORD FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY IN 2015

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), Rhode Island State Police
and Rhode Island Department of Health today announced that fatalities due to motor
vehicle crashes are down in the Ocean State, beating nationally trending data in
which fatalities are increasing. Over the past five years, the number of lives
lost on Rhode Island roadways has decreased, with preliminary data for 2015 recording
the lowest number to date of 45 fatalities.
«One life lost is too many. One life equates to one family. One family equates to
an entire community. Saving lives and reducing serious injuries remains a very
important
component of the work we do at RIDOT,» said RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. «However,
while we are pleased to see the numbers trending downward, we continue to work to
reduce these needless and preventable deaths and serious injuries on our state
highways.»
Of the 45 fatalities that occurred in Rhode Island in 2015, the majority were motor
vehicle occupants, nine were riding motorcycles and eight were pedestrians. Working
with the State Police and local law enforcement, educating Rhode Islanders has helped,
the Department reports. RIDOT statistics show that roadway fatalities have been
on a consistent decline. In 2010 Rhode Island reported 67 fatalities, in 2011 there
were 66, and in 2012 another 64 people were killed. Although the state saw a slight
increase in 2013 with 65 fatalities, the number of victims was reduced to 51 in
2014.
«The success of our highway safety goal to eliminate fatal crashes and serious injuries
statewide relies on our collaboration with several stakeholders and state leaders,»
Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell of the RI State Police said. «The Rhode Island State
Police actively promote strong prevention messaging, traffic engineering solutions,
public education, and vigilant law enforcement patrols. The collaboration with RIDOT’s
leadership and traffic engineering experts on the problems of fatal wrong-way crashes
resulted in an immediate intervention strategy that we believe is saving lives.»
Wearing a seat belt remains the best line of defense against injury or death when
in a crash. RIDOT has witnessed a distinct correlation between the decrease in roadway
fatalities and the primary seat belt law, originally enacted in 2011. The most recent
survey in 2015 found seat belt usage at an all-time high of 87 percent. In Rhode
Island, 57 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities were unbuckled. Nationally,
nearly half of the motor vehicle occupants who died in crashes were not buckled
up.
Distracted driving is another major concern in motor vehicle crashes. Texting while
driving is reported to be a factor in 25 percent of crashes nationwide. Motorists
talking on a handheld mobile device face a 300 percent increase in the risk of getting
into a crash. The risk for a crash skyrockets to a 2,400 percent increase from texting
while driving.
«We have made many life-saving gains through legislation as a result of the strong
leadership of our partners, such as the Department of Transportation, public health
stakeholders, and elected officials,» said Director of Health, Nicole Alexander-Scott,
MD, MPH. «Child passenger safety laws requiring children to be restrained, speeding
laws, and the most recent primary seat belt law are responsible for preventing hundreds
of deaths each year. We have more work to do, but our accomplishments to date have
saved lives.»
Most disturbing is that impaired driving still accounts for a third of the state’s
highway fatalities. Nationally, an alcohol-related fatality occurs every 51 minutes
and young adults are most often at risk.
With a focus on eliminating this destructive behavior in Rhode Island, RIDOT is
partnering with the Rhode Island State Police to develop a dedicated Impaired Driving
Prevention Alliance. They will work on creating a broad-based coalition comprised
of members of the law enforcement community, RIDOT, the Department of Health and
other state agencies, treatment and prevention specialists, business leaders, media
experts, community safety advocates, medical professionals, as well as the court
system, which will focus on targeting the goal of zero fatalities related to impaired
driving. The group will work to encourage better driving behavior – with the goal
of not only reaching the offenders but those who influence their decision-making
processes.
«The bottom line,» Alviti said, «is that crashes caused by driving under the influence
of drugs or alcohol are 100 percent preventable. My administration will be actively
seeking increased sanctions and better education to substantially reduce DUI related
deaths and injuries in our state.»