After fatalities, state troopers ordered to crack down on unsafe drivers

SCITUATE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s new superintendent of state police and director of public safety is taking action after a series of recent crashes resulted in the deaths of six people.

Col. Ann Assumpico announced Monday she’s ordered an immediate crackdown on motor vehicle violations such as speeding and aggressive driving.

Nine people have died as a result of motor vehicle crashes so far this year, including six motorists and three pedestrians. That’s more than double the number of fatalities in the same period last year, according to state police.

Six of those fatalities have taken place in just the past two weeks. On Monday, 19-year-old Matthew O’Gara of Coventry was struck and killed by a plow driver while walking on Arnold Road. Police are still looking for the suspect vehicle.

Two Massachusetts men died after they were ejected from their car when they struck another vehicle on I-95 in Hopkinton on Feb. 4. Police said neither man was wearing a seat belt.

Two days later, 17-year-old Andrew M. Oliveira of West Warwick died after he lost control of his car and struck a tree on Route 102 in Exeter.

Patrick Sullivan, 25, of Scituate, Mass., died on Feb. 9 after he struck the median on I-95 in East Greenwich and was partially ejected from his car.

On Feb. 11, a pedestrian died after he was struck by a tractor trailer on Route 146 in North Smithfield.

“Many of these fatalities resulted from excessive speed or failure to use seatbelts,” Col. Assumpico said in a statement. “Effective immediately, I have ordered all members of the Rhode Island State Police to aggressively enforce motor vehicle laws to help prevent such a needless and tragic loss of life.”

Col. Assumpico said she increased patrols in southern Rhode Island, where many of the fatal crashes took place. But, she said it’ll take more than just effort from her troopers to reduce the number of crashes and fatalities.

“The Rhode Island State Police will do everything in their power to keep the roadways safe,” she added. “But we also need your help. Remember to follow the rules of the road, including obeying all traffic and safety laws, and if you see someone driving aggressively, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, call 911 immediately. If we all do our part, together we can save lives.”

Capt. Matthew Moynihan also said, ‘We’re gonna step up enforcement efforts both on traffic enforcement, both on aggressive driving, speeding violations, as well as seatbelt use.”

According to Moynihan, the extra patrols will focus on South County, where most of the fatalities occurred.

He said that troopers aimed to amplify awareness not focus on issuing tickets.