Allegheny County court fines pay for ads targeting drunken driving
Ads during radio broadcasts of Steelers games often remind listeners not to drink and drive.
Money for the commercials comes from people who didn't heed the warnings.
The ads are part of an $85,134 campaign in 2011 by Allegheny County pretrial services, an arm of the state courts, that includes other radio spots, television ads and a designated driver booth at Penguins games.
The money used to pay for the campaign comes from $100 fines imposed on people convicted of driving under the influence. Motorists convicted of having double the legal limit of alcohol in their system -- or 0.16 percent -- or more pay a $200 fine.
State law requires that court officials use the money for substance abuse treatment or prevention programs. Officials call the public service announcements money well-spent because treatment programs for one person can cost thousands.
"We reach a lot more people through prevention," said Janice Dean, head of county pretrial services. Her department provides information to judges setting bond in criminal cases and monitors nonjailed defendants awaiting trial.
This year's allotment is about half of the total amount that the department spends on prevention programs. The county spends the other half on school programs that reach 30 to 40 districts, Dean said.
Last year, officials spent $118,121. This year's total is nearly five times more than 2007's expenditures of $17,470, records show.
Al Blumstein, a Carnegie Mellon University professor at the Heinz School of Public Policy who specializes in crime analysis, said perhaps some of the money could be directed back to people convicted of DUI to provide help for them or additional oversight.
He cited other states, including Hawaii and South Dakota, that have more involved supervision of people convicted of DUI to help them recover from addiction problems.
"I don't have a good sense (of whether the ads are effective or not). I would guess they're of limited value. Rather than an ad to the broad public, maybe the money should be targeted to people with a problem," Blumstein said.
Stephen Erni, executive director of the Pennsylvania DUI Association, a nonprofit that supports highway safety programs related to alcohol and driving, disagreed. He said counties spend money on treatment programs.
"What I've seen is that there's less and less money available for drug and alcohol prevention," Erni said. "Sports venues are an effective way to spend money on prevention, including the designated driver booths. It's not just putting up a billboard. We want people to think about the safe way to get home."
Erni said Allegheny County's school programs are particularly good. His organization this year honored county pretrial services for its prevention strategies.
"It's better to try and solve a problem before it's a problem," Erni said.Additional Information:
Money well spent
Allegheny County expenditures on public service announcements encouraging people not to drink and drive:
Source: Allegheny County courts
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Steelers rising fast in mediocre AFC
- Steelers offense learning to slam door
- Steelers clinch trip to postseason with big victory over Chiefs
- Downie, Farnham bringing a much-needed edge to the Penguins
- Steelers-Bengals game to start at 8:30 p.m.
- Steelers notebook: Gay respects ‘anything’ referees call
- Heyward, swarming defense get best of Chiefs in Steelers’ win
- Search for Duquesne University graduate Kochu continues
- Pittsburgh mayor Peduto goes ‘Undercover’ for CBS reality show
- Missed chances haunt Chiefs against Steelers
- Groom cited at Farmington wedding reception being filmed for reality TV show