R.I. State Police Launch New OUI Patrol

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Rhode Island State Police officials have launched a new unit focused on catching impaired drivers.

The new unit was unveiled Thursday. It will staff between two to five additional state police patrols around the state.

The unit has been active for a month with a focus on catching drug- or alcohol-impaired drivers, as well as 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. 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.