WESTERLY — Classes are back in session and local police are increasing the number of patrols this week in an effort to promote a safe start to the school year.
The town, in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation's Office on Highway Safety, is participating in the state's Blue Rip Tide Distracted Driving and Pedestrian Safety Patrol campaign this week. The effort is the second in a two-part enforcement that also included DUI patrols over Labor Day weekend as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign.
"This is all part of a larger national effort to prevent drunk driving, target distracted driving and improve traffic safety," said Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey. "It's all part of a larger plan. If we increase public education through the media, increase our presence on town roads and ticket those who are driving distracted, we can set a tone to keep everyone safe."
The goal of the program isn't necessarily to hand out tickets, Lacey said, but to provide both education and enforcement in order to prevent a tragedy from occurring.
Westerly police began the enforcement Friday with a two-day effort in partnership with other local and state police agencies, according to a press release from Westerly Police Capt. Steven Johnson. The effort was conducted as part of Westerly's participation in the South County DUI Task Force.
Lacey said local police did not have many complaints of DUI, but noted that two people were charged following separate crashes.
Edward A. Woodruff, 24, of Kenyon, was charged around 8:45 p.m. Friday following a crash along Grove Avenue and Paul M. Eilert, 29, of 114A Ashaway Road, was charged in a Saturday evening crash around 9:30 a.m. at the intersection of Ashaway Road and Old Hopkinton Road. Both were charged with driving under the influence.
He said with the final weekend of summer drawing to a close, however, officers will continue the added patrols and enforcement throughout the week.
"The real goal here is to simply make sure everyone remains safe," Lacey said. "We will be present, every day, at the town's schools and making sure drivers are not putting the students or themselves in harm way."