New state police unit focused on catching impaired drivers

December 20, 2019 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island State Police have launched a new unit focused on catching impaired drivers.

The new unit, which will staff between two to five additional state police patrols around Rhode Island, was unveiled Thursday in Providence.

The unit has been active for a month with a focus on catching drug- or alcohol-impaired drivers and cracking down on distracted driving between the hours of 5 p.m. and 5 a.m.

In the first month of operation, the unit has arrested 90 people – 49 of them for driving under the influence – and issued 684 citations, state police said in a release. In addition, 56 crashes were investigated – with nearly 30% of them involving a suspected impaired driver.

Unlike increased holiday enforcement or DUI check points, this program will be active year-round, and police Col. James Manni said he aims to make the unit permanent. A federal grant through the state Department of Transportation is funding the program.

A total of 50 people were killed due to impaired driving in Rhode Island in 2017 and 2018, police said, and it ranks in the top third of states with the highest percentage of fatalities involving impaired drivers.