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Expert RoundUp – Rhode Island Paves Way for Reduction in Roadway Fatalities

Getting Tougher on Drunk Driving

Rhode Island has joined 27 other states in requiring ignition lock devices for anyone convicted of drunk driving, including first-time offenders. These devices require drivers to blow into them to test blood alcohol level before starting the car.

“It’s not the silver bullet to end drunk driving, obviously, but it’s one of the best ways that we have right now at mass level to be able to stop individuals from doing the offense again,” Eric Creamer, Executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in Rhode Island, told WPRI, Eye Witness News.

Pulling the Plug on Distracted Driving

Only 14 states have outright banned talking on a handheld phone while driving. Now, Rhode Island is considering following in the footsteps of nearby Connecticut and New Jersey. (It has already implemented a ban on handheld cellphones for novice drivers and school bus drivers.) Such an adjustment might take some time, but many say it’s worth it.

“I got a couple tickets right in the beginning. But now it’s just commonplace and it feels absolutely crazy to pick up the phone and talk in Connecticut, where now when I come to Rhode Island to travel and I see people talking on the phone while driving, it does seem pretty crazy. I think the law does need to be implemented,” Bryan Levasseur, a Connecticut resident, told NBC 10 News.

Making Seat Belts a Top Priority

More than 30 states have enacted primary seat belt laws, which means an officer can pull over and ticket an offender specifically for not wearing a seat belt. This compares with secondary seat belt laws, which mean a driver can only be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt when pulled over for another offense. Since becoming the 33rd state to enact such a law, Rhode Island has seen a decrease in unbelted fatalities.

“States with primary seat belt enforcement laws consistently have higher observed daytime seat belt use rates than secondary law States. Secondary belt law States, on the other hand, consistently have more motor vehicle fatalities who were not restrained than do primary law States,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Putting a Stop to Wrong-Way Drivers

Many states struggle with trouble caused by wrong-way drivers. Although wrong-way crashes aren’t as common as other types of accidents, they are highly likely to cause life-threatening injuries or fatalities. Rhode Island is working on a wrong-way warning system to prevent these deadly crashes:

“If a vehicle enters the wrong way on an off ramp, the signs would flash to warn them. If they ignore the sign and continue into a second detection zone, it will send a picture of their car back to the management center and police will be contacted. We will also place messages on overhead sings warning motorists of the potential of a wrong-way driver coming their way,” Robert Rocchio, acting chief engineer for RIDOT, told WPRI, Eye Witness News.

Addressing Dangerous Road Conditions

Dangerous roads can lead to an increase in auto accidents, so fixing infrastructure problems is crucial to any safety strategy. In 2016, the 10-year RhodeWorks plan was signed into law, marking billions of dollars for investment in Rhode Island’s transportation system, particularly its deficient bridges. In addition, the law puts a new focus on improving road maintenance.

“RIDOT is expanding its maintenance capability in terms of added personnel and new equipment. The department transferred 40 vacant administrative positions to maintenance to provide more field staff for addressing a wide range of maintenance and repair activities. The Department created dedicated crews for drainage inspection and cleaning, for installing pavement markings, and for inspecting bridges,” the Rhode Island Department of Transportation reported.

Redesigning Unsafe Intersections

Across the United States, states and municipalities (including those in Rhode Island) are turning to roundabouts to improve safety at intersections. Research has shown that roundabouts may reduce fatal crashes at intersections by 90 percent, primarily because there are fewer opportunities for impact and vehicles are forced to slow down.

“With roughly one-quarter of all traffic fatalities in the United States associated with intersections, it is critical that safer designs are implemented as widely and routinely as possible. But safer designs must also keep people and goods moving. Roundabouts have proven to be a safer and more efficient type of intersection,” the Federal Highway Administration reported.

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