Task force hopes bold message will help curb New Year’s DUI cases

Photo: Ashley Erling | WPRI 12

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s Department of Transportation and State Police have a strong message for revelers this New Year’s Eve – “fill potholes, not graves.”

The bold message – which can be seen on electronic billboards spanning state highways – is part of the state’s anti-drunk driving campaign this holiday.

State police say New Year’s Eve is one of the worst drunk driving day of the year.

Mary Baker knows the pain drunk driving can inflict all too well. Her 7-year-old nephew was killed when a car he was riding in was hit by a drunk driver.

“The ripple effect of drunk driving and impaired decisions is deep and wide,” Baker said. “I’ve searched for 28 years for the answer to this tragedy and never find it.”

The signs aim to make people think twice about getting behind the wheel while impaired. But for those who don’t heed the warning, State Police Supt. Ann Assumpico said troopers and local police will be out in full force New Year’s Eve.

“Impaired drivers have nowhere to hide. They will be stopped and arrested,” Assumpico said.bat-mobile

To that end, state police will be deploying the Breath Alcohol Testing Mobile Unit (B.A.T) at Cranston High School East starting Saturday night at 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. New Year’s Day.

The BAT vehicle will be in a centralized location so multiple police agencies can test, process, and arrest suspected impaired drivers without having to go back to their respective police stations.

This will allow officers to return to patrols faster and pick up other impaired drivers.

AAA Southern New England said a little planning goes a long way toward keeping the celebration safe.

“We know that a person’s judgment is the first thing affected by alcohol. Too many people wait until after they’ve started drinking to figure out how they get home,” said David Raposa, AAA of Southern New England. “Have a plan if you’re going to drink. Make sure you have a sober driver to take you home.”

Other Ways Home

In Massachusetts, the MBTA is offering free service after 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. In addition, all subway lines will offer additional service until 1 a.m.

“We encourage everyone who will be celebrating the New Year to make responsible decisions to ensure they are able to reach their destinations safely,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack.

At 18 MassDOT service plazas, free coffee will be offered on Saturday as well.