Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association Shares Safety Tips During Distracted Driving Awareness Month

PROVIDENCE — As part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association would like to remind residents to stay focused while operating a vehicle.

April is designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month by the National Safety Council. As part of the campaign, the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association is working to raise awareness about the importance of attentive and engaged driving, and is focusing on the dangers distracted driving poses to everyone on the road, including other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2019 alone there were over 3,142 deaths as a result of distracted driving. RIPCA wishes to help spread the word that it’s joining law enforcement agencies across the state along with the NHTSA for the 2021 U Drive. U Text. U Pay. campaign. From April 8-12, law enforcement officers will increase enforcement and pull over texting and distracted drivers during this national high-visibility effort to enforce texting and distracted driving laws.

“Distracted driving is something we deal with every day, and is one of the most dangerous and potentially deadly behaviors a driver can engage in behind the wheel,” RIPCA Executive Director Sidney Wordell said. “Drivers in Rhode Island need to know that law enforcement across the state take this issue very seriously and will have a zero tolerance policy if they see someone texting or using their mobile device while operating a motor vehicle.”

Violating Rhode Island’s distracted-driving laws can be costly. If drivers are seen talking into a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle a violation is a mandatory court appearance. Drivers who manipulate cell phones while driving will face a $100 pay by mail fine.

In addition, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation has resources and information on distracted driving, which can he found here. The page includes information on the state’s Office of Highway Safety, links to current highway safety laws, relevant statistics and more. 

Safety tips for driving relating to using a mobile device include:

  • If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location. Once you are safely off the road and parked, it is safe to text.
  • Designate your passenger as your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
  • Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving. 
  • Struggling to not text and drive? Activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature, or put your cell phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your destination.
  • When you get behind the wheel, be an example to your family and friends by putting your phone away. Just because other people do it does not mean texting and driving is “normal” behavior. Instead, it is a selfish, deadly and, oftentimes, illegal activity that could kill you, a loved one, a friend or a stranger. 
  • In 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, texting while driving is illegal, and you can be ticketed. You could end up paying a hefty fine.
  • If you see someone texting while driving, speak up. If your friends’ text while driving, tell them to stop. Listen to your passengers: If they catch you texting while driving and tell you to put your phone away, put it down. 
  • Remember, when you get behind the wheel, put your phone away. U Drive. U Text. U Pay.

Statistics relating to distracted driving include:

  • According to NHTSA, between 2012 and 2019, nearly 26,004 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver. While fatalities from motor-vehicle crashes decreased slightly from 2018, distraction-related fatalities increased by 10%.
  • NHTSA reports that the number of deaths linked to driver distraction was 3,142 nationwide, or almost 9% of all fatalities in 2019. This represents a 10% increase over the year 2018, or 284 more fatalities. The distraction figure was the largest increase in causes of traffic deaths reported for 2019. 
  • Distracted-driving crashes accounted for 15% of injury crashes and 14% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2019.
  • Texting while driving has become an especially problematic trend among younger drivers. In fact, 9% of drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in 2019 fatal crashes were reported as distracted. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the fatal crashes.
  • According to NHTSA research from 2017, young drivers 16 to 24 years old have been observed using handheld electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers have since 2007. 
  • In 2019, there were 566 nonoccupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, and others) killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. 

For more distracted driving safety tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and information on the U Drive. U Text. U Pay. campaign, click here.

Impaired Driving Campaign

In addition to Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will soon be launching a campaign to address the growing issue of impaired driving related to marijuana and other drug usage. On Tuesday, April 20 (an annual date commonly associated with marijuana use), the NHTSA will kick off its “If You Feel Different, You Drive Different” campaign.

According to NHTSA, between 2009 and 2018, of those drivers killed in crashes and tested for marijuana, the presence of marijuana had nearly doubled. In 2018, 46% of drivers who were killed in crashes and were tested for drugs, tested positive. 

“It doesn’t matter what the day is, any impairment is a threat when you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle,” said RIPCA President and West Greenwich Police Chief Richard Ramsay. “We are asking our community members to obey the law and to make safe choices when behind the wheel of a vehicle.”

For more information on the “If You Feel Different, You Drive Different” campaign, click here. To view videos encouraging drivers not to drive while impaired, click here.

Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association Shares Safety Tips During Distracted Driving Awareness Month