State Highway Safety Showcase
Alcohol Highway Safety Program
In the past ten years impaired driving crashes on Pennsylvania’s roadways have claimed over 500 lives annually. Although the current alcohol-related crashes and deaths are trending downward, alcohol-related deaths are still a significant problem in Pennsylvania, accounting for approximately one-third of all highway deaths.The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Alcohol Highway Safety Program employs several strategies (including enforcement, education, etc.) to support the reduction of alcohol-related deaths on the state's roadways.
The PennDOT Alcohol Highway Safety Program is a multi-faceted, data-driven alcohol safety program that includes enforcement, education, press releases, and inter-agency cooperation. The program's law enforcement efforts in alcohol highway safety provide extra benefits. For example, sobriety checkpoints often catch other violations, like failure to wear seat belts, expired registrations, suspended licenses, outstanding warrants and drug possession. Key program components include:
- Incorporating DUI awareness enforcement in all operations. By including the “We Check for DUI” message in seat belt, aggressive driving, speeding and other enforcement activities, Pennsylvania was able to make 2.5 million contacts by police officers in 2008.
- Data-driven enforcement in high crash locations during national and state-wide mobilizations. PennDOT’s goal is to ensure all officers are in possession of the most up to date crash maps and data for coordinated enforcement mobilizations. Funds for police overtime enforcement are provided through grants with PennDOT. The data-driven approach also allows limited personnel and funding resources to be focused at locations where both problems and solutions can be quantified.
- DUI enforcement events including Sobriety Checkpoints, Roving Patrols and Mobile Awareness Phantom Checkpoints.
- Media coverage, promoting the program, and educating the public. Public awareness of the DUI message is achieved through newspapers, radio, TV, billboards, and brochures.
- Cops in Shops enforcement events.
- Training courses serving a large number of law enforcement personnel.
- DUI Court. DUI Court treated approximately 200 repeat offenders in 2008, and the number of courts was doubled for 2009.
- Judicial outreach to educate judges on PennDOT’s Highway Safety goals and local enforcement and media campaigns. Over the past two years, approximately 80 percent of all Magisterial District Judges participated in a PennDOT District Judge outreach program.
- Ignition Interlock Quality Assurance Program. The Pennsylvania DUI Association conducts ignition interlock quality assurance under contract for PennDOT. All installations and participants are tracked and serviced when needed. PennDOT’s contract with the PA DUI Association covers the salaries for four ignition interlock program managers and their associated costs. The program managers must ensure that all manufacturers and service providers strictly adhere to the Pennsylvania ignition interlock specifications.
- Specialized Enforcement
- Low Manpower Checkpoints are used in an effort to effectively use the resources and be cost efficient. Task Forces are encouraged to do more low-manpower checkpoints and use volunteers from local organizations such as volunteer fire departments for ancillary duties. Checkpoint volunteers can provide their services in the set up, tear down, and clean up of a checkpoint only. In a low-manpower checkpoint, enforcement is done on a road with a traffic volume that a smaller number of officers can handle. Fewer motorists are contacted, but the goal of DUI deterrence and awareness is still achieved.
- Phantom Checkpoints are low manpower events characterized by one or two officers setting up limited checkpoint equipment for a brief period of time to create a perception of an impending checkpoint.
- DUI Law Enforcement Liaisons. The DUI Association contract employs two DUI Law Enforcement Liaisons who visit and review each of the 48 PennDOT DUI enforcement grantees. In addition to the two DUI LELs, there is also a DUI Court Liaison position in the contract. This LEL has been instrumental in providing technical assistance to the DUI Courts. Various trainings conducted under this contract have (re)certified 980 individuals.
- EyeCheck Pupilometers. Pupilometers measure the size of a potential DUI motorist’s pupils to determine if there is impairment other than alcohol.
- Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor (TSRP). This position was established to provide information on DUI and other safety program initiatives.
- DRE and ARIDE Program Expansions. These programs teach police officers to recognize drug impairment during all traffic stops. Currently there are 66 officers trained in DRE and 350 trained in ARIDE. The combination of innovative equipment and training has led to a record number of Drug DUI arrests in 2008, from 5,529 in 2004 up to 9,100 in 2008.
The program is supported by federal highway safety funds (Section 402 and 410) state funds in the amount of $317,492.
The fact that alcohol-related crashes and major injuries for 2008 are at their lowest total in ten years speaks to the program's effectiveness. The five-year alcohol-related fatality average has also declined each of the past four years.
Strong partnerships have been developed between law enforcement, various government levels, the press, judiciary, education, and safety professionals, fostering improved structures of communication among the partners. State and Municipal Police, the Pennsylvania DUI Association, Community Traffic Safety Personnel, State Safety Press Officers, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) all contributed to program success. Each stakeholder contributes to the combined effort under the same crash and fatality reduction goal. The success of the program as a whole is based on the planning, development, evaluation methods, and expertise of all parties.
As a result of this program, the data-driven approach has been verified as a legitimate tool for defining and addressing alcohol highway safety and other highway safety areas. This approach also provides structure to the overall highway safety program, thus supporting and focusing data collection and analysis, problem identification, funding distribution, personnel allocation and publicity.
- Girish N. Modi, P.E.
Chief, Safety Management Division, PA Department of Transportation