The New England Patriots pulled off the victory that rendered all their hard work throughout a year following the crushing disappointment of a Super Bowl loss last February worth it – and they did it by playing lights out defense for a change.
The strategy was similar for law enforcement and state transportation officials the Friday preceding the big game, but the goal was different. Instead of hoisting a Lombardi Trophy, the championship moment for the state would be getting through the whole weekend without a fatality caused by impaired driving.
As of Monday afternoon, both the Patriots and state officials had succeeded in their championship goals. No deadly vehicular crashes associated with DUIs had been reported to the state traffic safety office by press time.
In Warwick, there were a total of 10 DUI arrests from Friday afternoon to Monday morning, according to Major Mark Ulucci, and no fatal crashes. Some of those arrests resulted in response to accidents, but others were due to enhanced enforcement efforts from Warwick Police that resulted in taking impaired drivers off the road.
Statewide, the Rhode Island State Police handled three drunk driving arrests on the night of the Super Bowl, compared to two arrests last year. Spokeswoman Laura Meade Kirk said the state police did not respond to any fatal incidents. As of Monday’s deadline, the state’s office of highway safety had not received word about any fatal DUI-related crashes elsewhere in the state, according to spokeswoman Gabrielle Abbatte.
“A good coach draws up the best plan he can to ensure success on game day,” said state Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti from O’Rourke’s in Pawtuxet. “Likewise, everybody has to develop their own personal game plan to have themselves, their family members and friends and anybody else they're responsible for to get home safely from the festivities.”
Warwick’s new police chief Col. Rick Rathbun lamented how recent statistics released from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that Rhode Island suffered 84 roadway fatalities in 2017, with 34 of those stemming from alcohol impairment (41 percent of total fatalities). This percentage is 12 points higher than the 29 percent national average.
“DUI related offenses are 100 percent preventable,” Rathbun said. “They are committed based upon poor decision making and a lack of planning on the people who want to go out there and drive under the influence or use drugs and driver a vehicle.”
Mayor Joseph Solomon mentioned how the cost of an average DUI court case was around $10,000 and said the easiest answer to preventing drunk driving tragedies is to simply not do it, and to plan ahead.
“The men and women of our police department throughout the state and in Warwick will not give second chances to those who make the decision to drive while intoxicated,” he said. “If you get pulled over and are under the influence, you will be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law… Getting everyone home safe is what our goal is.”
His point was echoed by AAA Northeast Vice President Lloyd Albert, who brought up enlisting the help of a designated driver, a cab or the ride sharing services of Lyft and Uber.
“If you feel you're going to get impaired, there are options for everyone out there,” Albert said.
Referencing their ad series “The Ripple Effect” – some of which played during Sunday night’s game – Alviti spoke about the severe consequences that drunk driving has not only for the people who are immediately affected in a crash, but the potentially many more people that are included within those individuals’ circles of influence.
“Understand that that single decision you make this weekend whether or not to get behind the wheel impaired will not just affect you, but may affect many hundreds of other people's lives that surround the other victims, the enforcement personnel and the other emergency personnel that have to attend to these crashes and these senseless, senseless accidents,” he said.
Warwick Police Major Mark Ulucci, operations bureau commander, spoke to members of the media about the increased presence of officers looking for signs of DUI and other traffic violations during Super Bowl weekend, a time when accidents normally spike. (Warwick Beacon photos)
SHOW OF SUPPORT:
Members of the Warwick Police Department and the State Police gathered at O’Rourke’s to hammer home the importance of planning ahead in the event of excessive drinking over this past weekend.