Traffic Safety Laws in Rhode Island

Reporting a Drunk Driver

Drunk driving is a very serious offense. Residents convicted of a DUI face license suspension, fines, community service, a highway safety assessment, drunk driving school, mandatory alcohol treatment, and a possible jail sentence.

If you see someone you suspect is operating under the influence of alcohol, call 911 to report:

  • Your location and the location of the suspected drunk driver
  • A description of the driver's vehicle, including make, model, and license plate number
  • Any specific behaviors you have witnessed, such as tailgating or excessive swerving, that have led you to believe the driver may be intoxicated

Rhode Island Child Car Seat Laws

  • Children under 8 years old, less than 57 inches tall, and weighing less than 80 lbs. must be transported in the rear seating position of a motor vehicle and properly restrained in a child restraint system.
  • Children 8 years old and over must be wearing a properly fitting seat belt (see below).

Parents ticketed for violating the state's child restraint law for a child required to be in a child restraint system, the driver must appear in court. For a violation of a the child restraint law when the child is over 8 years old, the fine is $85.

If you're in the market for one, you can shop online for a child car seat at any time. Before ordering, be sure to read our articles on How to Buy a Child Safety Seat and How to Install a Child Safety Seat.

Seat Belts—8 Years Old & Over

Rhode Island's seat belt law states:

  • Any passenger aged 8 years old and up must wear a safety belt and/or shoulder harness.
  • All vehicle operators must wear a safety belt and/or shoulder harness at all times.


Proper headlight usage is an important part of safe driving. In Rhode Island, you are legally required to use your headlights when:

  • Driving from sunset to sunrise
  • You can't see more than 500 ft in front of your vehicle
  • Weather conditions require the use of your windshield wipers

You should dim your bright headlights when meeting another vehicle at a distance of at least 500 ft, or when following another motorist at 200 ft or less.

RI Electronic Devices and Texting Laws

Drivers under 18 years old and school bus drivers can be ticketed for using an electric device while driving.

Texting while driving is banned for all drivers, regardless of age or license status. Drivers may use an electronic device to activate, view, or deactivate GPS navigation. 

Motorcycle and Bicycle Helmets


Although Rhode Island does not mandate motorcycle helmet use for the general population, the following provisions apply:

  • All passengers must wear helmets, regardless of age.
  • All operators must wear helmets during the first year of licensure, regardless of age.
  • Operators under 21 years old are legally required to wear helmets whenever traveling on the state's roads. Also, regardless of age you must wear a helmet if you have held your license under 1 year.


Bicycle helmets are legally required for riders 15 years old and under. In addition, whenever there is a safe bicycle path near a roadway, riders are encouraged to use the path instead of traveling on the road.

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