PAWTUCKET, R.I. – One of the four people arrested for driving under the influence early Thursday morning was Brooke Morgan, a 23 year old woman from Cranston who Rhode Island State Police say was driving the wrong way on Interstate 95 just before 4 a.m. in Pawtucket.
Rhode Island State Police Capt. Matthew Moynihan said several people called 911 to report Morgan driving from Massachusetts into Rhode Island going south on the northbound side of I-95. Pawtucket Police were able to pull her over, and state police arrested her.
“With the assistance of officers from the Pawtucket Police Department and their quick reaction, they were able to stop that vehicle before we had another, yet another, tragic crash,” Moynihan said. Morgan was charged with driving under the influence after police say her blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit to drive.
The arrest happened just two hours after a deadly crash on the same highway in the same city, where police say 30-year-old Virtolino Lima from Providence died after crashing his car. Police say alcohol and speed were both factors in that crash, and no one else was hurt.
A second person died on I-95 in Providence after a fiery crash just before 3 a.m. Police said Raymond E. Santiago, 28, was speeding when he failed to negotiate a curve and crashed into a concrete barrier and a construction messaging board. Police are still investigating if alcohol or drugs were factors.
Three other people were also charged by police with driving under the influence overnight. Scott Lindsay, 37, of Providence was arrested for DUI on Silver Spring Street at 9:50 p.m Wednesday. Mitchell Aruda, 20, was arrested at 10:29 p.m. for DUI along with possession of a controlled substance after a traffic stop in North Kingstown. Leah Deery, 26, was charged with DUI after being pulled over on Amherst Street in Providence at 1:28 a.m.
“We’re angered to be standing up here today,” Capt. Moynihan said at a news conference Thursday morning about the crashes and arrests. He said it was frustrating because police had made a plea to the public just the day before, asking drivers to avoid being on the roads while impaired or distracted.
“Impaired driving has consequences…fatal tragic consequences,” Moynihan said.
Eric Creamer, the executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said his organization has also been spreading the word about staying sober while behind the wheel over the holiday season.
“There’s no excuse for it,” Creamer said. He also said he would support stronger penalties for DUIs, along with ignition interlock devices that require drivers to blow into a device to prove sobriety before they can drive.
He said the most common misconception he sees from the public is that people think they are sober enough to drive after having a couple drinks.
“They think they’re fine,” Creamer said. “But it’s that mindset that needs to change.”
Rhode Island State Police has launched a campaign, “Beyond the Crash,” that focuses on motor vehicle safety. Electronic road signs are also displayed on the highways with messages discouraging drunk driving. Still, hundreds of people are arrested annually for DUI on Rhode Island roadways, and 42% of fatal crashes in 2015 involved alcohol, according to state police.
Police and transportation officials have also sought to tackle wrong way driving, which is often coupled with drinking, by installing a detection system that alerts police when a driver enters the highway in the wrong direction. Thursday morning, however, that alert system was not in play; police say Brooke Morgan first entered the highway in Massachusetts, which does not have the system, then crossed into Rhode Island.
Instead, passersby who spotted Morgan driving the wrong way were the ones who alerted police, Moynihan said.
“The public is our force multiplier out there,” he said.
Morgan appeared in court on Thursday morning and was released on personal recognizance.