Police step up DUI enforcement to prevent roadway deaths

DUI presser_207180

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. – State and local police departments have teamed up to form the Rhode Island DUI Taskforce, and are putting extra patrols on the roads this Labor Day Weekend.

Col. Steven O’Donnell, the Superintendent of Rhode Island State Police, says the ultimate goal is to prevent highway deaths.

“Every holiday we lose a lot of people to drunk driving accidents,” Col. O’Donnell said. He told us 15 extra RISP troopers are out this weekend compared to a regular weekend, plus untold extra patrols from local police departments.

“You’re going to drink and drive? We’re going to arrest you,” He said. “Our goal would be prevention.”

DUI checkpoints are illegal in Rhode Island, so police count on citizens to call police when they spot impaired drivers in addition to their own training and skills.

Col. O’Donnell reminded us there’s no such thing as a “routine” patrol. During our interview, he was abruptly pulled away to help the Central Falls Police Department respond to a traffic stop that turned into a police chase. A suspect was apprehended at the scene, where we caught up with Col. O’Donnell again.

“Some people that are not in the business would say that’s mundane patrol, routine patrol. Then just like that, you’re flying. And we had to leave to respond,” he said.

Those very patrolmen and women are out in full force this weekend hoping to save lives. Col. O’Donnell says about 1/3 of highway deaths are caused by impaired drivers. There were 54 highway deaths in 2014. There have been 23 deaths so far in 2015.

Col. O’Donnell recommends calling *77 to report drunk driving, which gets the caller directly to police dispatch faster than 911.

17 drivers were arrested for DUI Friday night between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Full statistics from the Labor Day DUI enforcement campaign will be released Tuesday.

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