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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — On the first day of summer, Rhode Island Hospital and the Department of Transportation wanted to draw attention to the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Health and transportation officials called a press conference Wednesday because they usually see a spike in crashes during the summer.

According to data from the Health Department’s forensic lab, 36 people have died on Rhode Island roads so far this year, which is almost three times the number of fatalities in the same period last year.

Out of those fatal crashes, 58% of the drivers showed evidence of impairment.

In 2022, 14 people died in Rhode Island from crashes caused by impaired driving, and 89 others were seriously hurt.

RIDOT Chief of Highway Safety Gabrielle Abbate said that even though recreational marijuana is now legal, it is still against the law to drive while high.

“While we don’t have definitive evidence, we and other states have seen an increase in impaired driving crashes since the passage of the law,” Abbate explained.

Dr. Charles Adams, the chief of trauma at Rhode Island Hospital, said summer is known to him and his staff as “Trauma Season” due to the increase in injuries and death.

“The injuries are sometimes indescribable,” he said. “Some of the worst are things like traumatic brain injury where the person you knew is never coming back, spinal cord injury where they’re paralyzed.”

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“My partners and I will have many meetings in a small conference room off the ICU this summer, that we’re going to have to deliver devastating news about the death of a loved one or some injury that they will never really truly recover from,” Adams continued.

“If you’re going to a party, leave the car at home,” Adams advised. “Take a rideshare, call a cab, get a designated driver … Don’t take the chance of irrevocably changing your life or somebody else’s.”

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