PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The number of deaths on Rhode Island roadways has been on a steady decline over the past five years, research from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation shows.
Bucking a nationwide trend that shows fatalities from motor vehicle crashes are on the rise, RIDOT revealed Tuesday that 45 people died in Rhode Island in 2015, compared to 67 reported in 2010.
“One life lost is too many. One life equates to one family. One family equates to an entire community. Saving lives and reducing serious injuries remains a very important component of the work we do at RIDOT,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said in a statement. “However, while we are pleased to see the numbers trending downward, we continue to work to reduce these needless and preventable deaths and serious injuries on our state highways.”
The decline in deaths has been near-consistent since 2010, with 66 being reported in 2011, 64 in 2012, 65 in 2013, and 51 in 2014.
Of the 45 deaths in 2015, RIDOT said 28 were occupants of motor vehicles while nine were riding motorcycles and eight were pedestrians.
The agency attributed the decline in part to the seat belt law enacted in 2011, saying seat belt usage was at an all-time high of 87 percent in 2015. Of this past year’s fatalities in Rhode Island, 57 percent were not wearing a seatbelt, according to RIDOT.
RIDOT said one-third of the state’s highway fatalities can be attributed to impaired driving. The agency said it’s partnering with Rhode Island State Police to create the Impaired Driving Prevention Alliance, which aims to reduce the number of drunk-driving deaths to zero by not only focusing on the offenders but also those who influence their decision-making process.
“The bottom line is that crashes caused by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are 100 percent preventable,” Alviti added. “My administration will be actively seeking increased sanctions and better education to substantially reduce DUI related deaths and injuries in our state.”
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RIDOT said distracted driving also remains a major concern, with texting while driving reported to be a factor in 25 percent of crashes nationwide. The agency said drivers talking on a handheld mobile device face a 300 percent increase in the risk of getting into a crash, while that risk sees a stark 2,400-percent increase when texting while driving.