Signs of the times could help save lives


People are sure to huff and puff about more delays to the toll gantries that were supposed to start tolling truckers this past March in order to make money to help start paying for a 10-year, $5 billion road renovation and infrastructure repairs program known as Rhode Works.

Although one could fairly argue that the state Department of Transportation deserves criticism for not meeting their original time estimation, it could also be argued that they would face even more criticism if they completed the work too soon and the gantries didn’t work like they’re supposed to.

Director Peter Alviti contends it is just business as usual, and that they are making sure to cross their t’s and dot their i’s before throwing the switch on and beginning the new toll process. This, he said, is with the full support of Governor Raimondo.

Despite this delay, we would actually like to take some time to say job well done to another DOT endeavor – one that readers probably know very well. On the front page today is a story about the department’s attempts to spread awareness about not drinking and driving or driving while distracted. This campaign has a goal of reducing the number of preventable deaths on the state’s highways to zero.

While that may be an unrealistic or, perhaps, even statistically impossible goal given the number of people who utilize the high-speed roads every day throughout the entire year, the goal is noble in its intent regardless.

The campaign includes ads on television through partnerships with the state police and the Department of Health, and its most visible, recognizable feature are the road signs that flash humorous or ominous messages about the consequences of driving while impaired or distracted.

You may think the signs are funny, lame, cheesy or in bad taste, but to DOT and the state police, the only thing that matters are that people are seeing the signs and having conversations about them, whereas people may never talk about such subjects without some form of prompting.

The concept is to engrain and reinforce the notion that driving while impaired or distracted is a stupid, avoidable decision that can result in life-altering consequences for yourself and for innumerable others – such as the lives of those you affect should you strike and kill an innocent driver while drunk.

While a silly saying on a road sign may not prevent people from getting behind the wheel when they shouldn’t in all cases, if it even causes one person to think twice before doing so, or makes someone aware that their friend is about to make that decision, and they stop it from occurring, then the campaign is more than worth it.

In a time where social media has made it easier than ever to criticize our government agencies – and rightfully so, when they fall short of expectations – we should also take the opportunity to praise certain measures that have good merit and could be beneficial to our populace as a whole.

So next time you see one of those cheeky road signs, bring it up with a friend in conversation you see at work that day, or at home at the dinner table with your family. Sparking that conversation about how dangerous driving while impaired or distracted – even by simply asking, “Did you see the signs today?” – can cause a much more positive ripple effect than you may believe.


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