MADD-RI Urges State to Buckle Down on Drunk Driving Laws

News & Press

MADD-RI Urges State to Buckle Down on Drunk Driving Laws

Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Source: Tiverton Patch

Advocates reported Rhode Island as one of the highest ranking states for drunk driving fatalities during Saturday's holiday awareness campaign launch held at East Providence Lanes.

By Raymond Beltran

Police officers from across the state joined Rhode Island's Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) at East Providence Lanes Saturday afternoon for the group's annual awareness campaign kickoff. Before the Holiday Highway Safety Awareness Event turned into a bowling tournament, those present used their platform to advocate tougher laws relating to drunk driving.

East Providence Police Chief Joe Tavares said that he saw Saturday's kickoff event as a reminder “to do more” to curb drinking-and-driving across the state. Tavares, who later accompanied his fellow officers tying a MADD ribbon to police cars, also pointed to efforts in East Providence to curb drinking issues.

“We're taking on many of the liquor establishments, both retail, restaurants and others, so as to prevent that individual from even getting into the vehicle,” Tavares said. Tavares also mentioned the city's youth decoy program  as an example of individual communities fighting alcohol abuse. The program has resulted in multiple violations and showcase hearings across the city.

Saturday's event included a personal example of the pain drunk driving can cause. Cathy Andreozzi brought her now wheelchair-bound daughter, Tori Lynn, before the gathered crowd, speaking of Rhode Island's need to adopt stricter laws regarding intoxicated driving.

“There is much work to be done,” Andreozzi said. “There are [many] steps that can be taken. Rhode Island has been in this battle for over 30 years and certainty it's not for the lack of efforts, but we are still at the bottom.”

MADD has developed a rating system by which it measures each state. Ranging from one to five stars, the ratings are tied to how many of MADD's suggestions a state implements. These include sobriety checkpoints on roadways; administrative license revocation; child-endangerment laws; vehicle interlock systems for first-time convicted drunk drivers; and no-refusal laws.

By MADD's standards, Rhode Island is lagging in efforts to effectively deal with drunk driving. The group has assigned the Ocean State one star, a sole recognition of its present child endangerment laws relating to alcohol. Yet Saturday's event presented the urgency of the organization and its allies to make Rhode Island subscribe to the additional benchmarks devised by MADD.

At Saturday's event, Steven Pare, commissioner of Public Safety for the City of Providence and chairman of MADD-RI, referenced the slightly higher ratings handed out by the group to Rhode Island's neighbors, along with a statistic that placed Rhode Island in the “top five states in this country that continually has a high percentage of alcohol-related fatalities.”

The state's legislature has been reluctat to adopt MADD's proposals, citing their potential unconstitutional nature, according to Pare.

“There's alway a balance with freedom, and there's always a balance with enforcement and incarceration,” Pare said in response to Rhode Island's sensitivity to safeguarding constitutional rights. Pare added that, in the legislature, “there's resistance to the tools which we've advocated.”

A resistant General Assembly has not deterred MADD advocate Cathy Andreozzi from focusing on the group's intended results – even if those results mean more of a clamp-down on non-offenders.

“We need to convey to the legislative body that the rights of the individuals who are doing exactly what they should be doing, when they should be doing it, cannot weigh the rights of those who have made a willful, irresponsible and illegal choice,” Andreozzi said.

When you come to the edge of the light you know and are about to step off into the darkness, faith is knowing one of two things will happen… there will be something solid to stand on, or you will learn to fly