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.