Injury Prevention Center

Impaired Driving

Safe Driving Tips

Simply stated, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of precaution – especially when it comes to driving.

Here are several of the most proven ways to ensure a safe ride: 

  • Plan your safe ride home before you start the party, choose a non-drinking friend as a designated driver. Likewise, plan ahead for a sober driver, if you plan to use an impairing drug .
  • If someone you know has been drinking or is under the influence of drugs, do not let that person get behind the wheel. Take their keys and help them arrange a sober ride home. 
  • If you drink, do not drive for any reason. Call a taxi, a ride-hailing service, or a sober friend. 
  • If you’re hosting a party where alcohol or other substances will be served, make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.
  • Read and follow all warning labels on prescription and over-the-counter medicines before driving and note that warnings against “operating heavy machinery” include driving a vehicle.
  • Talk to your health care provider about possible side effects of any prescribed medications. You can also request printed information about the side effects of any new medicine.
  • Always wear your seat belt — it’s your best defense against impaired drivers.

Did You Know?

247 people were killed in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver in Rhode Island from 2009 to 2018. (Source: CDC)

Nearly 1 in 10 Rhode Island Young Adults (18 to 25) have driven while impaired by alcohol. (Source: Rhode Island BHDDH)

Rhode Island has a zero tolerance per se drugged driving law enacted for cannabis and other controlled substances. (Source: National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving)

Types of Impaired Driving

Impaired Driving Quiz

Test Your Knowledge

Impaired Driving Quiz


Alcohol Impaired Driving

Alcohol is a substance that reduces the function of the brain, impairing thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination. All these abilities are essential to operating a vehicle safely.

Here are some alarming statistics: 

  • In 2020, there were 11,654 traffic deaths due to alcohol-impaired driving— a 14 percent increase from the previous year.
  • About 30 percent of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers with blood alcohol contents of .08 grams per deciliter or higher.
  • Nationwide, in 2020, people between the ages of 21-34 were among the highest percentages of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes compared to other age groups.

Rhode Island Statistics

  •  In 2020, the percentage of alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities among total traffic fatalities in Rhode Island was 42 percent compared to the national average of 30 percent in 2020.
  • In 2021, 33 percent of patients involved in a motor vehicle collision who were admitted to Rhode Island Hospital had a blood alcohol content of .08 grams per deciliter or higher. (This has been a consistent statistic since 2013).


CDC Impaired Driving Facts

CDC Rhode Island Alcohol Impaired Facts

National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration Traffic on Alcohol Impaired Driving

Rhode Island Department of Transportation

Marijuana and Illicit Drug Impaired Driving

After alcohol, marijuana is the most common drug found in the blood of drivers involved in crashes. Driving is a complex task that requires your full attention to stay safe and alert. Marijuana affects areas of the brain that control your body’s movements, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment.

Here’s how it impacts driving:

  • Marijuana impairs motor skills, lane tracking, and cognitive functions and it can slow coordination, judgement, and reaction times.
  • 13 percent of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.
  • Marijuana users were about 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use.

Rhode Island Statistics

  • Between 2013 and 2021, Rhode Island Hospital reported a 76 percent increase in positive marijuana use for admitted patients involved in a motor vehicle collision.
  • Between 2013 through 2021, 41 percent of all patients admitted to Rhode Island Hospital due to car crash tested positive for at least one drug. The most common drugs found were, in order, marijuana, opioids/opiates, benzodiazepines, and cocaine.
  • Rhode Island’s zero tolerance law prohibits drugged driving for marijuana and other controlled substances.


National Conference of State Legislatures Marijuana Impaired Driving Facts's%202020%20Traffic%20Safety%20Culture,be%20very%20or%20extremely%20dangerous

Prescription Drug Impaired Driving

Some prescription and over the counter (OTC) medicines can cause extreme drowsiness, dizziness, and other side effects. It is illegal to drive under the influence of any drug or substance that can cause impairment in a driver, and this includes prescribed or OTC medications.

Medicines that might affect driving include opioid pain relievers and prescription drugs for anxiety and some:

  • Anti-seizure drugs (antiepileptic drugs.)
  • Antipsychotic drugs.
  • Antidepressants.
  • Products containing codeine.
  • Cold remedies and allergy products, such as antihistamines (both prescription and otc.)
  • Sleeping pills.
  • Muscle relaxants.
  • Medicines that treat or control symptoms of diarrhea or motion sickness
  • Diet pills, “stay awake” drugs, and other medications with stimulants such as caffeine, ephedrine, and pseudoephedrine.


United States FDA Facts on Medicines and Driving

National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration on Drug Impaired Driving

National Institute on Drug Abuse Fact drugfacts.pdf?v=96e43a024e0cb0956f4398b5a9ad75bc