Representatives of Rhode Island State Police, Rhode Island Department of Transportation and AAA Speak
*To view a recorded livestream of Thursday’s event, courtesy the Cranston Police Department, click here.*
PROVIDENCE — Members of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association were joined by members of the Rhode Island State Police (RISP), Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and AAA Northeast last week to discuss the significant rise in fatality rates on roadways throughout the state in 2020.
RIPCA hosted a press conference Thursday, Oct. 29 at the Rhode Island Emergency Management complex to discuss the potential causes of the rise in motor vehicle and pedestrian fatalities this year. Among those factors are impaired and distracted driving, reckless driving and speeding, and lack of seatbelt usage.
Factors relating to the COVID-19 pandemic were also discussed.
As of Oct. 28, there have been a total of 63 fatalities on Rhode Island roadways in 2020. This includes 45 motor vehicle/motorcycle fatalities, which is only four less than the entire number of fatal motor vehicle crashes in all of 2019. Additionally, there have been 16 pedestrian fatalities so far in 2020, which is double the total from 2019, in which there were eight. There have also been two bicycle fatalities during this time.
Brian Sullivan, RIPCA President and Lincoln Police Chief, spoke of the many ways the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association works to reduce impaired, distracted and reckless driving. This includes participating in the Click It or Ticket campaign, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign and U Drive. U Text. U Pay. campaign, in cooperation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“The Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association is committed to making our roadways as safe as possible and doing what we can to limit the number of driver and pedestrian fatalities on our streets and highways,” Chief Sullivan said.
Peter Alviti, Jr., Director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation said, “These statistics and numbers are scary, in a very real way. Every Rhode Islander owes it to themselves and all of the other people out on the roads to allow us to get home or where we need to go safely. Everybody knows what to do — drive sober, stay under the speed limit, put on a seatbelt and keep your aggression under wraps, and hopefully we can make the news coming out of this better and bring the statistics to zero.”
Colonel James Manni of the Rhode Island State Police said he views fatalities on Rhode Island highways in a unique way given the COVID-19 pandemic. He said his state is not alone in seeing crash rates on the rise despite there being fewer cars on the roads during the shutdown, which is a clear sign that drivers are acting recklessly and dangerously.
Col. Manni credited the Rhode Island State Police Traffic Safety Unit, launched last year, for helping to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on state highways. Since last year, the Unit has given 823 warnings, 477 arrests and 273 DUIs, and responded to 228 crashes (32 of which were the result of drivers operated under the influence of alcohol).
“I have no doubt that if it were not for the work of this Unit, the number of fatalities on our highways would have been much higher,” Col. Manni said. “That doesn’t include the other 245 state troopers or 2,500-plus police officers who report to work every day.”
Diana Gugliotta, Senior Manager of Public Affairs for AAA Northeast, spoke on ways pedestrians can stay safe. She stressed the importance of increasing visibility, as well as parents talking to their children about the need to always be alert and follow safety guidelines whenever walking along roadways.
The event was hosted by Sidney Wordell, RIPCA Executive Director, who acknowledged and thanked the many partners and community stakeholders who attended the event and work with RIPCA throughout the year.
“As we all know, holiday parties and New Years Eve parties are some of the most common times for impaired driving incidents,” Executive Director Wordell said. “With this in mind, we felt that now was an important time to bring these highway and traffic stakeholders together to deliver a unified message about the importance of safe and responsible driving.”
Police chiefs, officers and state troopers from numerous departments throughout the state were present for the event.