SGI is rejigging its mandatory drug and alcohol programs required for impaired drivers to better address their substance use issues.

“We record these offences on the driver record, but we also feel we need to help people understand and separate the acts of drinking and driving,” said SGI’s manager of driver programs Sandy Crighton.

As of November, drivers who commit a second drinking or drug use and driving offence will have to complete the Alcohol and Drug Education program. Unlike the existing program, this 32-hour course will be taught by trained addictions counsellors. Participants will have to examine their own substance use — whether or not it constitutes dependency — and its consequences. They must also explore alternatives to impaired driving and develop a personal change plan. If an addiction is identified, counsellors will refer the participants to community programs and additional help.

The non-punitive program is intended to further reduce Saskatchewan’s relatively low recidivism rates, said Crighton. Over the past 10 years, nearly 29,000 residents have been convicted with impaired driving only once, while about 5,500 have received multiple convictions. Crighton sees these figures as an indication that education and awareness programs are having an effect.

Currently, all offenders are automatically screened for addiction, then move on to an education program. About 3,000 people complete the Driving Without Impairment program every year.

With only 25 per cent of screened offenders requiring addiction treatment services, SGI is scrapping the mandatory evaluation. But all first-time offenders will still be required to complete the Driving Without Impairment program, which is taught by laypeople instead of counsellors.

“We’re very supportive of this type of education and awareness program, and that’s one of the tools we believe works when we’re talking about relieving the blight of impaired driving with the offenders and reoffenders,” said Denise Dubyk, past president of MADD Canada.

She praises SGI’s “proactive” approach in tackling impaired driving rates in the province. She said courses such as the new Alcohol and Drug Education program are effective in how they address people’s overarching issues with substance use.

“This program will play a huge role in changing behaviours,” when used in consort with penalties, she said.

Come June, the province will also be tightening its impaired driving legislation: lengthening licence suspension periods, introducing vehicle impoundment for inexperienced drivers, and implementing one-year-long user-pay ignition interlock for criminal code offences.

The government also last week launched the Road Safety Challenge, urging residents to reduce deaths and injuries caused by collisions by 10 per cent by Saskatchewan Day in 2015, then by 20 per cent two years later.

Distracted driving is the leading cause of fatal crashes in the province, followed by impaired driving.

Source: Leader Post Regina


Last updated on: 2014-05-15 | Link to this post