The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced today that it is one of only seven states to receive a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) incentive grant designed to combat distracted driving. The $459,000 grant is part of NHTSA’s National Priority Safety Program.
“Rhode Island continues to lead the way in proactively addressing highway safety programs,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. “Through the receipt of this grant, we can step up our ongoing efforts to ensure highway safety and ensure that drivers stay focused while driving. I want to congratulate RIDOT and our many partners in law enforcement as they continue to do all they can to make our roadways safer.”
RIDOT will use the NHTSA funds to develop a comprehensive distracted driving prevention program, which launches in October 2013. It will focus on Rhode Island drivers and include education, community outreach and increased funding for enforcement efforts.
“We continuously strive to engineer safety on our roadways,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “For the best results, engineering and policy reforms must be combined with enforcement and education, which are the focal points of this new program.”
The issue of distracted driving is at the forefront of RIDOT’s safety efforts with programs such as the “It Can Wait,” campaign, which educates local high school students about the dangers and consequences of texting while driving.
We have also worked with our partners in the General Assembly, the Division of Motor Vehicles and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s Office to toughen distracted driving laws. To adhere to the NHTSA funding requirements for this grant, states must enact and enforce a ban on the use of electronic devices for young drivers. In Rhode Island, it is illegal for minors to use a cell phone while driving unless calling for emergency services.
In 2009, Rhode Island passed a law banning texting while driving. This year, the state passed a law requiring tickets issued for texting while driving to be heard before a judge at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. This combination of approaches has been proven to help reduce distracted driving incidents in other areas of the country.
Great – you know what this means right? Sure there will be a public safety message campaign but that won’t be the main thrust. Instead more cops. Just what we DON’T need.
Given the incredible number of distracted drivers I see during my commute, there definitely needs to be more cops. I am seriously considering creating a blog to post pictures and license plates of people I see texting during my commute.
Mind you, I commute using RIPTA. I can text and commute all I want.
I drive all over the state due to my line of work. Rhode Island drivers have never been considered great, or even good, but texting and driving is a legitimate scourge. On the low end, it’s sitting behind someone at a stoplight who doesn’t realize that the light has changed. On the truly dangerous end, I was forced to quickly pull to the shoulder (and on someone’s lawn) on 116 in Coventry last week because a Jeep came around a curve and into my lane. When I hit the horn, the driver’s head jerked up because she had been looking at something in her lap and most likely reading or sending a text message. It’s legitimately frightening and completely avoidable. In my opinion, the penalties for texting while driving should be on par with drunk driving. The results are just as dangerous and avoidable.
Congratulations to RIDOT for getting the grant. I’ll note the AG Peter Kilmartin should get some credit too as he was the cheif sponsor of the bill to prohibit texting while driving when he was a legislator and he got it passed.
As a bicyclist and pedestrian I especially appreciate this campaign because we are so vulnerable, but responsible motorists will also benefit as they are at risk too. I wish the “complete streets” crowd took this more seriously as few streets will get new infrastructure but all could benefit from combatting dangerous driving which sometimes discourages folks from biking more. The legislature could help too if they would tighten laws on drunk and careless driving.
How anyone could say more enforcement of traffic laws is a bad thing is just ridiculous to me. Texting and driving is a serious problem in this state. We may have the law to ban it, but we don’t enforce it. I, as someone who drives quite a bit, welcome more enforcement. I hope the new enforcement isn’t only on the state highways, but also for local streets, which will hopefully include more enforcement of general traffic laws in the city (which seriously need major enforcement).
Yeah, I would say more police in this area would be good. I’m not a super law-and-order kind of person across the board, but there’s no reason to protect drivers from accountability for their actions.
I think the same goes, in my opinion, for speed cameras. I think it’s intrusive that we have so many cameras all over in our society, in a general sense, but I think the ones being used for speed enforcement are legit. How can a person expect their driving to be private? It’s clearly out in the public sphere.