Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association Urges Safe and Sober Driving, Proper Seat Belt Use This Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend

SMITHFIELD — The Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association would like to remind the community of important safe driving tips ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. 

RIPCA and law enforcement representatives joined the Rhode Island Interscholastic League (RIIL), Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), and representatives from Bryant University Tuesday morning in Smithfield to place a special emphasis on observing the rules of the road and driving safely. Officials offered guidance on safe and responsible driving during the event to help prevent crashes this weekend.

“Law enforcement officers in every community in Rhode Island work each day to keep people safe on the roads,” RIPCA Executive Director Sid Wordell said at Tuesday’s event. “Together through building awareness, educating the public on prevention and safety, and enforcing the laws, we hope to reduce the number of crashes on our roads. However, we can’t do it alone. Everyone plays a part in preventing the needless loss of life, and we hope everyone will take the necessary steps to travel safely this weekend.”

Click It or Ticket Mobilization

Departments across the state are taking part in the National Click It or Ticket High Visibility Enforcement Campaign over the Thanksgiving holiday. As part of the campaign, which began Nov. 21 and runs through Nov. 27, police agencies are working together to reduce the number of fatalities that occur when drivers and passengers fail to buckle up by stepping up their enforcement efforts for motorists who aren’t wearing their seat belts. 

In Rhode Island, the law requires all vehicle occupants to wear their seat belt, and violations result in a $40 fine.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2020, between the evening of Nov. 25 to the morning of Nov. 30, there were 333 passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes across the country — 52% were unrestrained. 

The Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association is partnering with the NHTSA and Rhode Island’s Office on Highway Safety to remind drivers to “Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time.”

  • In 2020, there were 23,824 occupants of passenger vehicles killed in traffic crashes in the U.S. Fifty percent of all front-seat passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2020 were unrestrained, and 59% of those killed in back seats were unrestrained.
  • No matter the time of day, driving without a seat belt is deadly. During the 2020 Thanksgiving weekend, 51% of passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes at night were unbuckled, compared to 55% during the day.
  • Among young adults age 18-34 killed while riding in passenger vehicles in 2020, more than half (60%) were completely unrestrained — one of the highest percentages for all age groups.
  • Males make up the majority of those killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. In 2020, 67% of the 23,824 passenger vehicle occupants who were killed were male. Males also wear their seat belts at a lower rate than females — 55% of males killed in crashes were unrestrained, compared to 43% of females killed in crashes.
  • If you’re ejected from a vehicle in a crash, odds are that you will not survive. In 2020, 82% of the passenger vehicle occupants totally ejected from vehicles in crashes were killed. Wearing your seat belt is the most effective way to prevent ejection. In 2020, only 1% of passenger vehicle occupants wearing seat belts were ejected in fatal crashes, compared to 26% of those who were unrestrained.
  • In the last decade, seat belts saved the lives of more than 100,000 people in the United States.

Additional Reminders for Safe Driving

Drive Sober

According to the NHTSA, during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend from 2016-2020, over 800 people died in crashes involving a drunk driver

Thanksgiving Eve is a popular time for people to begin to gather with family and friends, and visit hometown bars. This makes Thanksgiving Eve a dangerous night for driving — from 2016-2020, 138 drivers involved in fatal crashes on Thanksgiving Eve were drunk. Young drivers, ages 21-24, represented the largest percentage (44%) of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes on Thanksgiving Eve.  

  • Nationally, it is illegal to drive impaired — no exceptions. It is illegal to drive in Rhode Island with a BAC of .08 or higher. However, remember that even a small amount of alcohol or drugs can quickly affect a person and their judgement. 
  • If you plan to drink, make a plan ahead of time for a sober ride home. Designate a sober driver, or plan to use public transportation or a ride share service. 
  • Watch out for your family and friends. If someone you know is impaired and planning to drive, take their keys and make arrangements to get them home safely.
  • If you see an impaired driver on the road, safely pull over and call 911. 

Don’t Drive Distracted

Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, adjusting the radio or navigation system — anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.

Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

An analysis of data from the NHTSA found that 3,142 people died in distraction-affected crashes in 2020, an increase from the 3,119 such deaths in 2019. Traffic safety experts believe that driver inattention is a significant factor in motor vehicle crashes and fatalities.

The NHTSA offers these tips for motorists to avoid a distraction-affected crash.

  • Before driving, turn your phone off and put it out of reach.
  • Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode.
  • Let your friends and family know that you’ll be driving and can’t take their calls or texts.
  • If you have to make a call or send a text, pull over.
  • Parents can lead by example by never driving distracted and are encouraged to talk with their young driver about distraction and all of the responsibilities that come with driving.

Watch for Pedestrians

The NHTSA reports that 6,516 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. in 2020. On average, a pedestrian was killed every 81 minutes and injured every 10 minutes in traffic crashes in 2020. Pedestrian deaths accounted for 17% of all traffic fatalities in 2020 and 2% of all people injured in traffic crashes in 2020. 

Safety tips for drivers include: 

  • Look out for pedestrians everywhere, at all times.
  • Use extra caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or bad weather.
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too.
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. There may be people crossing where you can’t see.
  • Follow the speed limit, especially around people on the street, in school zones and in neighborhoods where children are present.
  • Be extra cautious when backing up and look for pedestrians.

RIIL has also partnered with RIDOT on the “Traffic Safety is a Team Sport” initiative. This campaign supports RIDOT’s mission of achieving zero fatalities by focusing on the areas of occupant safety, distracted driving and impaired driving. 

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Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association Urges Safe and Sober Driving, Proper Seat Belt Use This Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend
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