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Drunk Driving in Rhode Island

A person is injured every two minutes in a drunk driving crash, according to safety advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 10,000 people were killed in 2013 as a result of alcohol-related crashes.

Despite years of safety advocacy and ever-tightening laws, drunk drivers continue to get behind the wheel and cause serious, even deadly, accidents. Rhode Island is no exception. The CDC reports that the number of Rhode Island drivers who report driving after drinking too much is higher than the national average, and the state attorney general recently called state laws regarding punishment of repeat drunk drivers some of the nation’s weakest.

What Constitutes Drunk Driving in Rhode Island?

Every person processes alcohol differently. Age, weight, gender, recent meals, and how quickly the alcohol is consumed all affect impairment levels. Nonetheless, the more a person drinks, the more impaired they will become. Though safety advocates encourage people to drive only when completely sober, state law defines the legal version of drunk driving. In Rhode Island, a driver is considered under the influence when his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches:

  • .08 percent. It is illegal for any person to drive with a BAC of .08 percent or higher in all 50 states. At this level, judgment, concentration, reaction time, and visual tracking of the driver are compromised.

  • .04 percent. Any person who operates a commercial vehicle is considered legally drunk at a BAC of .04 percent.

  • .02 percent. Drivers under the age of 21 are held to an even lower level for BAC.

While some drivers may think they can avoid a DUI charge by refusing a breathalyzer test, this is not the case in Rhode Island. As in a number of other states, Rhode Island has implied consent. If a person drives in the state, he or she has agreed to a sobriety test if suspected of driving under the influence. If a person does refuse a test, he or she would be subject to a loss of his license, fines, and/or community service.

Officials Looking to Tighten Laws

Last year, drunk-driving related deaths represented 36 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the state. The state attorney general has called for stricter laws for a number of years, but the legislation has never been approved by state lawmakers. Currently, advocacy groups and some state officials are encouraging lawmakers to consider additional safety measures, including:

  • Harsher punishment for repeat offenders. The maximum penalty for killing another person in a drunk driving accident is currently 15 years in jail. Nearly half of all other states have lengthier sentences.

  • Sobriety checkpoints. Police-run sobriety checkpoints are currently illegal in the state.

  • Ignition interlock. These systems require a person to check their BAC before the vehicle will start. Some say all offenders should be required to use ignition interlock, not just those with multiple offenses.

Drunk driving remains a serious problem on Rhode Island roads. If you or someone you love has suffered injuries or death because of a drunk driver, you may be eligible to file a claim. Call the experienced legal team at KLF Law today at 401-421-0300 to learn more about your rights and to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

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