For the first time in six years, the number of drunken driving deaths is up across the country, and according to MADD, the increase of five percent is a staggering setback for the cause.
But that trend is not true here in Rhode Island. In fact, the number of drunken driving deaths in the Ocean State is down by one percent.
MADD activists and Rhode Island State Troopers say those declining numbers are a credit to a lot of hard work out there on the streets, and in local classrooms.
On Christmas night NBC 10 rode along with Trooper Franklin Navarro of the Rhode Island State Police.
"Education and enforcement, you know? They go hand in hand so; it's about getting the message out. We'll be out there, we'll be looking for several telltale signs, and we're out there in force," said Trooper Navarro.
Navarro and his partner say finding and removing intoxicated drivers from Rhode Island streets and highways takes assistance from more than just officers of the law.
"We really do rely on the public to contact us so that we can do what we have to do to get those impaired drivers off the road," said Navarro.
State Police say while some DUI arrests are a result of their own patrols and observations while driving around in their cruisers, many tips that lead to an arrest are actually tips called in by other drivers.
"They'll call in and say that someone is all over the road, or driving erratically, or going way too slow, or way too fast. We always check them out, but if we get a good vehicle description we can track them down, and get them off the road. But sometimes it's hard to tell what the problem is, because today drivers are more distracted than ever, and many times these drivers are texting too."
Navarro said after nine years on the highways, he's noticed that drunk drivers are terrible "multi-taskers," adding that they can only do one thing well.
For example, they can maintain their speed, but not stay within the lane.
While negotiating one, particularly curvy area of I-95 north Navarro said, "This is a very hard curve we're in now, and as we're turning to the left here, someone who is impaired would not be able to maintain the lane as they're coming through this area, and even if they did, they probably couldn't maintain their speed at the same time."
The veteran trooper said eventually, most drivers who get a DUI actually end up grateful for the charge, as opposed to what the deadly alternative may have been.
Navarro said, "I think as time goes on, they realize that probably the best thing that happened to them was being caught. They made that mistake, they won't repeat it again, and they made it home safely, and so did everyone else out here in the public."
Navarro reminded drivers that State Police DUI patrols increase during the holiday season, so be sure to designate a driver, or plan to stay put if you're going out for a few cocktails, especially on New Year's Eve.
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