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Rhode Island Dram Shop Law

Every single day, nearly 30 people die in drunk driving crashes in the United States. This equals more than 10,000 lives lost every year due to drunk drivers. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a crime and can have tragic consequences.

In the state of Rhode Island, any driver who is caught driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater is criminally guilty of drunk driving.

Dram Shop Laws in Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws § 3-5-1 provides that a license is required for the manufacture, sale, and importation of alcohol. Restaurants, bars, liquor shops, breweries, and wineries must all have a license to sell alcohol or allow for alcohol consumption on their premises.

When an establishment has a liquor license, they assume specific liabilities for their patrons and can be held liable for negligent or reckless service of alcohol.

Effects of Alcohol on Driving

Even small amounts of alcohol can have a significant effect on driving abilities. Alcohol itself impairs thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination, which can result in serious and fatal car accidents. This is why safety experts continue to warn drivers that even buzzed driving is drunk driving.

As alcohol levels rise in the bloodstream, the risk of car accidents increases. Even one drink is enough to impair your driving abilities and raise your risk of crashing and suffering serious injury.

  • BAC of 0.02 – some loss of judgement, relaxation of the body, and a decline in the ability to perform two tasks at the same time
  • BAC of 0.05 – exaggerated behaviors, loss of small-muscle control (such as focusing eyes), and difficulty steering. Reduced response to emergency driving situations makes it more likely to get into a car crash.
  • BAC of 0.08 – poor muscle coordination, difficulty detecting dangerous or hazardous situations, and impaired memory. Speed control and information processing capabilities are reduced.
  • BAC of 0.10 – slowed reaction times and slurred speech. Reduced ability to maintain positioning in a lane and decreased braking times.
  • BAC of 0.15 – major loss of balance, substantial difficulty maintaining vehicle control, poor attention to driving tasks.

How to Be a Responsible Drinker

Having a few drinks with friends is something most adults enjoy. However, it is important to be a responsible drinker. If you are planning on drinking, it is important that you plan a safe ride home. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends all adults follow these steps when drinking.

  • Never drink and drive.
  • Plan a safe ride home before you head out – choose a non-drinking driver or arrange for a rideshare service to pick you up.
  • Do not let friends, who have been drinking, get behind the wheel of a car. If necessary, take their keys and arrange for a sober ride home.
  • If you host a party, make sure all guests who are drinking leave with a sober driver.
  • Always wear your seat belts when driving – this is your best defense against other impaired drivers on the road.

Rhode Island Drunk Driving Statistics

  • According to MADD, Rhode Island ranks 45th for drunk driving
  • Drunk drivers are responsible for 37% of all fatalities on the road
  • In Rhode Island, drunk driving cost $84 million a year in crash-related death costs
  • From 2003 to 2012, 308 people were killed in drunk driving accidents in Rhode Island
  • In 2016, Rhode Island passed an all-offender ignition interlock law
  • In 2017, 83 drivers were killed in motor vehicle fatalities. 41% of those drivers had a BAC greater than the legal limit of 0.08. 24% had a BAC of more than 2x the legal limit.
  • In 2017, there were more fatal drunk driving accidents in August in Rhode Island than any other month
  • From 2015 to 2017, the number of fatal drunk driving accidents in Rhode Island nearly doubled
  • Nationally, 1.9% of drivers reported driving after drinking too much. In Rhode Island, that number was significantly higher with 2.4% of drivers reporting having driven drunk in the last 30 days

Impact of Drunk Drivers in the United States

  • Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve a drunk driver
  • One person is killed in the United States every 48 minutes because of drunk driving
  • Men are 4x more likely to be in fatal drunk driving crashes
  • In 2017, drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 made up 42% of all fatal drunk driving crashes
  • Minimum drinking age laws have saved 31,959 lives since 1975
  • The highest percentage of drunk drivers in 2017 was 21 to 24-year-olds
  • Impaired driving cost the U.S. $44 billion annually
  • Majority of fatal drunk driving crashes in the United States occur in the month of July
  • More fatal drunk driving accidents occur between the hours of 3 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.
  • More fatal drunk driving accidents occur on the weekends between Friday, Saturday and Sunday
  • Fatal drunk driving crashes occur nearly 2x more often in daylight hours

All-Offender Ignition Interlock Law

In 2016, Rhode Island passed an all-offender ignition interlock law. This law requires a judge to order ignition interlock devices for first-time offenders who apply for a hardship license, as well as repeat and first-time offenders with a BAC greater than .15 after the hardship license ends.

First DUI offenders can have their ignition interlock device installed upon conviction. They are required to keep this device on their vehicle for between 30 days and 1 year.

Second DUI offenders can have their ignition interlock device installed 45 days after their conviction. They are required to keep this device on their vehicle for between 6 months and 2 years.

Ignition interlock devices work. From 2006 to 2016, ignition interlock devices stopped a drunk driver 2,565 times.

This law is one step towards reducing the number of drunk driving accidents in the state. However, more can be done to improve Rhode Island’s Ignition Interlock Law, including:

  • Ask the user to prove a certain period of sober driver before exiting the interlock program
  • Credit early installation of device
  • Advertise the law during Drive Sober Get Pulled Over campaigns
  • Create an indigent fund to enable poor interlock users to have access to these devices
  • Require interlocks in all plea agreements or reductions to DUI charges

How to Reduce Drunk Driving in Rhode Island

In order to reduce drunk driving in Rhode Island, the CDC and MADD recommend the following:

  • Sobriety checkpoints – in Rhode Island, sobriety checkpoints are not allowed. However, these checkpoints have been proven to help reduce the number of drunk drivers on the roads.
  • Improving current ignition interlock laws – Rhode Island took a big step towards safety in 2016, however, the law could improve further. A defined compliance-based removal component to the law could be added, as well as creating an indigent fund so poor interlock users have access to these devices.
  • School-based education – teaching new drivers and teens about the dangers of underage drinking and drunk driving is critical to preventing these deadly crashes.
  • New Laws – Drunk driving could be reduced if Rhode Island enacted an administrative license revocation law, as well as a law-making child endangerment a felony.
  • Increase Penalties for Refusal – drivers who refuse alcohol tests are not penalized harshly enough. Drunk driving could be reduced if Rhode Island criminalized and expedited warrants for drunk drivers who refused the alcohol test and required ignition interlock devices.

Contact Our Providence Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers Today

If you or someone you love has been injured in a drunk driving accident, it is important to speak to an experienced and skilled Providence drunk driving accident law firm. At Mandell, Boisclair & Mandell, Ltd, our Providence drunk driving accident lawyers work tirelessly for injured accident victims.

We know that drunk driving accidents can be complex and there may be multiple parties to blame for your accident and your injuries. As such, we investigate all angles of your accident to help you obtain the maximum compensation you are entitled to. Call us today at (401) 283-0745 or fill out our confidential contact form for a free initial consultation and review of your case.