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Tuesday, 17 March 2015 00:00

RI Attorney General Announces Driving Fatalities at All-Time Low, Seat Belt Use at All-Time High

Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin announced on March 11 that the number of driving-related fatalities in Rhode Island dropped 20 percent this year. It is down from 65 in 2013 to 52 in 2014.

The marked drop reflects a continued decline in fatalities from a high of 104 in 2003, representing a 100 percent decline, and is the lowest number of motor vehicle fatalities since 1994.

There was a significant decline in fatalities of young drivers age 16 to 24. This age group has continued to drop over the past five years from 22 fatalities in 2009 to eight fatalities in 2014.

Kilmartin also announced that seat belt use is up in Rhode Island. According to statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 87.4 percent of all Rhode Islanders reported using their seat belt every time they get into a motor vehicle in 2014, compared to just over 75 percent in 2004.

In 2009, Rhode Island passed its first ban on texting and driving. In 2011, the General Assembly passed the primary seatbelt law, and in 2013 lifted the sunset provision originally attached to the statute, allowing Rhode Island to receive millions in federal funds dedicated to seat belt enforcement and education campaigns.

"Our state leaders should be commended for enacting smart, tough driving laws," said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, who when serving as a state representative sponsored the State's ban on texting and driving. "The statistics show that our driving laws are having positive results."

"The reductions in fatalities are a direct result of the cumulative efforts by all through increased targeted enforcement (mapping fatal accidents), frequent public messaging on DUI arrests, school education programs (It Can Wait) and coordinated enforcement efforts. We still have a long way to go in an effort to continue our efforts in saving lives," said Colonel Steven G. O'Donnell, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Rhode Island Department of Public Safety.

According to the Rhode Island State Police, enforcement efforts and highway safety campaigns have increased in the past several years. In 2013, the State Police conducted 10 campaigns including Click It or Ticket, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over and other speed and DUI enforcement efforts. That number increased to 12 campaigns in 2014.

The number of driving citations has also increased in recent years. In 2013, the State Police issued 7,690 seat belt citations, as compared to 9,458 in 2014, representing a 23 percent increase. DUI arrests by the State Police were relatively the same both years, with 561 arrests in 2013 as compared to 534 in 2014.

Texting while driving citations also saw a significant increase. In 2013, the Rhode Island State Police issued 144 citations for texting while driving, as compared to 317 citations in 2014, an increase of 120 percent. Statewide, police issued 911 citations for texting while driving in 2014, as compared to 384 citations issued in 2013, an increase of 137 percent.

"The increase in violations is not an indicator that more individuals are breaking the law, but rather represents an increase in enforcement efforts. It is very likely that the increase in citations and arrests has a direct correlation to the decrease of fatalities by stopping individuals before they cause a motor vehicle accident," added Kilmartin.

"Having the opportunity to speak to thousands of young drivers each year about making the right choice when they get behind the wheel, I have witnessed the impact we are making firsthand. While you cannot prove that words have saved a life, I truly believe our efforts have started to change the driving habits of young people," said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. "Despite the decline in fatalities, the loss of even one life is one too many. We cannot ease up on enforcement or education just because we have made progress. Success is not measured by a decline in fatalities, but only when we reach zero fatalities year after year."

"As a member of Rhode Island's Traffic Safety Coalition, AAA Northeast has collaborated with a host of like-minded stakeholders to push for laws that translate into fewer injuries and fewer fatalities on Rhode Island's roadways," says AAA's Senior Vice President of Public & Government Affairs Lloyd Albert. "I have no doubt that recent legislation for which the Coalition has advocated – a seat belt law, a texting ban and a tougher drunk-driving law – will have a long-lasting impact on making our streets safer for all motorists, cyclists and pedestrians," he added.

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