Tipy in Johnston? So call an Uber

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By RORY SCHULER

Thunderclouds crossed the sky on Tuesday and large droplets began to fall onto the windshield of Johnston Police Officer Matt Leveillee’s sports car.

He watched the traffic fade down Hartford Avenue. His eyes were trained on the drivers behind the wheel.

Did the tires cross the center line? Does the driver text while driving?

Just days ago, Johnston police arrested a man for driving under the influence at 3pm on a city street.

In 2021, 16 drivers were arrested for impaired driving in Johnston, according to Johnston Police Chief Joseph P. Razza. Johnston police arrested 13 suspected drunk drivers in 2020 and 18 in 2019.

Once an arrest has been made, however, the damage is already done.

Some members of local law enforcement and drug prevention hope to curb destructive behavior before a crime is committed. They hope to get the message across that impaired driving is a 100% preventable offense.

“We have increased patrols throughout April to enforce distracted driving and are also looking for impaired drivers,” Razza said Tuesday.

In 2019, Johnston police cited 35 drivers for texting while driving and 40 drivers for using cellphones while driving. In 2020, they wrote 20 quotes for texting and 24 for cellphone use. And in 2021, the department cited 20 for texting and 30 for using a phone while driving.

“We encourage the public to put the phone down and be mindful of the road behind the wheel,” Razza said. “Also, if you’re going to drink alcohol and drive, do so responsibly and appoint a driver or use a ride-hailing service.”

On Tuesday morning, Razza met with Deputy Chief Mark Vieira, Patricia Sweet, director of the Southern Providence County Prevention Coalition (which covers Johnston, North Providence and Cranston), and Arthur J. Martins, coordinator of the Impaired Driving Engagement Council (of the Association of Rhode Island Police Chiefs).

“The SPC Regional Coalition partners with the Impaired Driving Engagement Council (IDEC) for the State of RI, which partners with the RI Department of Transportation’s Office of Traffic Safety and the RI Association of Chiefs of Police “, explained Sweet.

Agencies are joining forces to end impaired driving before tragedies occur.

“The goal is to approach the problem from a community-centered method that seeks to change destructive behaviors,” Sweet explained. “Impaired driving is not just a public safety issue, it’s a public health issue.”

The new state council is working with local coalitions against impaired driving.

“If we can collectively raise awareness and awareness of IDEC’s efforts, it will help achieve the goal of keeping everyone at RI safe on the road,” said Sweet, who is also director of prevention programs and the regional prevention task of SPC. Strength.

Martins is the retired chief of the North Providence Police Department and previously served in the Pawtucket Police Department for 28 years.

“Rhode Island has been identified as a mid-range state that has a high percentage of road deaths related to impaired driving. Rhode Island is consistently around that 40% range. And to be designated as a low-end state, you must be below 30%. Most of the rest of the country, on average, accounts for about 30% of road deaths related to impaired driving.

The Ocean State has a lot of work to do.

“Here in Rhode Island, I know we’re at 40%, but we have the lofty goal of having zero impaired driving deaths,” Martins said. “Now it might take a while to get there, but through education, awareness, prevention, counseling and a strong social media campaign, we hope to educate people about the dangers of impaired driving – not just alcohol, but also prescription drugs, and with the impending legalization of recreational marijuana, this is a concern.

The message is simple:

“If you choose to drink alcohol, don’t overdo it and then drive,” Martins urged drinkers. “Have a plan in place, whether it’s a designated driver, rideshare, Uber or a friend, don’t make the mistake of getting behind the wheel and driving in good condition. ‘drunk.’

Martins recounted many recent examples of tragedies triggered by drunk drivers.

“We’ve seen tragic incidents, just since the start of this year,” Martins said. “This young girl, Olivia Passeretti was killed on Route 95, following an individual who made bad choices. We had a young woman who was killed in Lincoln, her fiancé was driving. He hit a tree on Cobble Hill Road and fled, and they eventually apprehended him later, and there was evidence he might have been intoxicated.

April is also National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Johnston Police Department has “enhanced our law enforcement efforts across the city with a focus on texting while driving and holding a phone laptop while driving,” according to the department. “No text or phone call is worth the potential damage it could cause on the road.”

“In addition, we will sporadically deploy additional patrols throughout the month,” Razza said. “We will also update our Facebook page on a weekly basis to get the message out to the public.”

Martins hopes cooperation between agencies on so many levels will help persuade drivers to make solid decisions.

“We’re working with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, local prevention coalitions, local police departments, just to get the message out,” Sweet said. “Driving while impaired is dangerous. Make better choices. And let’s stop the trend and save lives instead of engaging in this dangerous and risky behavior that tends to ruin lives and cause great harm to society.

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