Rhode Island Police Chiefs urge safe driving ahead of busy holiday weekend

SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WLNE) — A near record amount of drivers are expected to hit the roads across the country this holiday weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving. But with added traffic on the roads also comes an increased concern for accidents.

According to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, there were 333 deadly crashes in the United States in 2019 over the Thanksgiving weekend, with 44% of those caused by an impaired driver and about 52% not wearing a seatbelt.

Tuesday, traffic safety officials stressed the importance of safe driving over the holiday weekend, as with the uptick in travel also comes more drunk driving, and DUI-related crashes.

“Plan ahead. If you drink, stay where you are,” said Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti. “Take a rest before you get on the road. Stay off the road.”

Tuesday morning, Alviti was joined by Rhode Island State Police Chiefs and other safety officials to emphasize safe practices on the roads over the holiday weekend.

According to AAA, about 55 million Americans are expected to travel on highways between Wednesday and Sunday, with about 2.1 million of those people in New England.

In Rhode Island, an added concern for drivers includes the newly implemented lane split on Interstate 195 west, after a crash early Monday morning caused heavy backups all the way to the Massachusetts border, delaying many commuters’ drive to work and school.

The right side of the split was closed for several hours late Monday morning and into the afternoon. Alviti told ABC 6 News he believes the repair work crews did to the split should solve many of the problems.

“I think we have that problem solved. I think you saw this morning with some of the changes that we made it in and around that work zone,” Alviti said.

Some of those changes include added markers and traffic cones leading up to the split to help alert drivers of the change and avoid any last-second switches that could be dangerous.

In Rhode Island, three people have been killed in the past five years driving during the five-day Thanksgiving holiday period.

Chief of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association Sydney Wordell said police are planning a heavy presence on roads over the weekend, and urge Rhode Islanders to avoid driving drunk and distracted.

“Watch out for your family and your friends. If someone you know is impaired and planning to drive take their keys and help them make the right call,” Wordell said.

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