Consistently better courses to rehabilitate drivers who break the law are predicted by a leading motoring lawyer.
Matt Reynolds, a solicitor at Just Motor Law, said that regulations around new rehabilitation courses designed to reduce reoffending on the roads and which started this month will be good examples for compulsory courses expected to be introduced in future legislation.
The Rehabilitation Courses (Drink-Drive and Other Offences) Regulations 2012 that came into force earlier this month and should regulate quality standards of such programmes across England and Scotland. Separate arrangements have to be made for Wales to provide for Welsh language statutory requirements.
In future, every drink driver who is convicted and banned will be sent on a Rehabilitation Course under recommendations which are expected to pass into law.
Matt said, “The purpose of the programme is too improve road safety and reduce reoffending and a report by Transport Research Laboratory found that satisfactory completion of a course goes some way to achieves these aims.
“However, according to the consultation, prior to the new regulations the course providers were not consistent in the quality of their lessons. Under the new regulations, the Secretary of State may withdraw approval for a DDRS course where they do not come up to a level of consistent quality set out in guidance published by the SoS.”
In an attempt to increase the uptake of the courses in the period until they become compulsory, providers will also be given approval to conduct courses in geographically specified areas. It is hoped that the move will make it easier for offenders to access local schemes.
The other main change will see the offender, rather than the taxpayer, administering the scheme.
Matt added, “While around 90,000 offenders each year are convicted of a relevant drink-driving offence, about 60,000 of these are referred by the courts to courses, and agree to undertake a course. However, only around 30,000 offenders actually complete the course.
“We would hope that this enforced quality control can only be a good thing for all road users and the offenders themselves, and of course successful completion of the course will continue to lead to a 25% reduction in the period of the disqualification.”
The courses currently cost the attendee between £100 and £250 dependent upon the area, with concessions for people on benefits, OAPS and those in full time studies.
With the new Regs there will be no minimum fee in England and Scotland but the maximum £250 fee will remain.
The exact location within those areas may be dependent on the course providers. Given the size of these areas, this could then still entail some significant travel for the attendees, for example travelling from Lands End to Bristol. The Department for Transport is currently inviting an expression of interest from potential course providers to make the locations more accessible.
The new changes do not involve Wales. However, this issue has been debated in the Welsh National Assembly and Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant AM confirmed the Welsh government’s commitment to the continuation of drink driving rehabilitation and explained that a new scheme would be in place by November. Undoubtedly this will allow for courses in the Welsh language.
Currently, the courses last about approximately 18 hours over three or four days in a two to three week period. Individual attendees’ commitments can be taken account of as there are course offered in the evenings and at weekends.