Governor Donald L. Carcieri has submitted a package of legislative proposals that seeks to make Rhode Island’s roadways safer by targeting drunk drivers, aggressive drivers, and drivers who do not wear their safety belts.
The package was went before the Senate and House Judiciary committees earlier this week.
Carcieri said that Rhode Island must improve its safety record in all areas of driver safety. “My legislative package makes it clear that Rhode Island will not tolerate drivers who make our roads unsafe,” Governor Carcieri said. “Drivers who drink, drivers who are aggressive on the road, and drivers who fail to buckle up will be held accountable for their actions.”
The committees heard these bills:
Drunk Driving Responsibility Act: Drivers suspected of driving while intoxicated would face increased penalties for refusing to submit to a chemical test. Current fines would be doubled under this legislation. A second violation within a five-year period would constitute a misdemeanor offense; a third offense within a five-year period would constitute a misdemeanor offense and the driver’s license would be revoked. The legislation (H 5930) is sponsored by Rep. Bruce J. Long (R-74). In the Senate, the legislation (S 576) is sponsored by Sen. Dennis L. Algiere (R-38).
Seat Belt Safety Act: Police who spot a driver or passenger not wearing their seat belt could be stopped and ticketed for the offense. Under current law, police may only ticket a driver for this offense if the driver is stopped for another infraction. The legislation (H 5931) is sponsored by Rep. Susan A. Story (R-66). In the Senate, the legislation (S 711) is sponsored by Sen. Leo R. Blais (R-24).
Aggressive Driving Reform Act: Two additional traffic violations – changing lanes in a dangerous manner and misusing the lane of travel designed for passing or left-hand turns – would be added to the list of violations that constitute aggressive driving. A police officer may cite a driver for aggressive driving if the officer witnesses a driver committing two or more violations on the aggressive driving list. In the House, this legislation (H 5939) is sponsored by Rep. Joseph A. Trillo (R-24). In the Senate, this legislation (S 354) is sponsored by Sen. Dennis L. Algiere (R-38).
In his testimony, Carcieri reminded lawmakers that Rhode Island’s safety record on the roads falls short when compared to other states.
Of the 104 traffic fatalities recorded in the state in 2003, 57, or 55 percent, were alcohol related, according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis. This represents the highest percentage of alcohol-related traffic deaths of any state in the nation.
Also, while 80 percent of Americans now wear their seat belts in an automobile, about 71 percent of Rhode Islanders wear their belts, according to national statistics. A seat belt violation in Rhode Island is currently considered a secondary violation. States with primary seat belt laws have higher rates of compliance among drivers and passengers
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