16 April 2012
What else should we do with bad drivers?
Sir Peter North Delivers Keynote Address at RSA International Conference
Monday 16 April, Dublin: One of the world’s leading road safety experts, Sir Peter North CBE DCL FBA QC, addressed almost 200 delegates at theRoad Safety Authority’s Annual International Conference in Dublin Castle today, Monday 16 April. The theme of the conference, which was chaired by Judge Michael Pattwell (retired), District Court Judge, was ‘Recidivist Behaviour and Driver Rehabilitation’.
Sir Peter North delivered the keynote address at the conference, asking ‘What else should we do with bad drivers?’ and cited the UK experience of rehabilitation programmes as a successful alternative to penalties or disqualification. At the conference, delegates were also presented with research from best practice countries in the EU on the use of technical and non-technical measures to tackle recidivist behaviour and repeat offenders.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr Leo Varadkar TD, opened the conference in Dublin Castle today, saying: “We need to find new ways of addressing the problem of repeat offenders. There is international acceptance that we need to supplement the existing system of fines, disqualification or imprisonment to tackle drivers who repeatedly commit road traffic violations. My Department, the Road Safety Authority and the Department of Justice and Equality are currently analysing international best practice. I look forward to receiving these recommendations on alternative measures to reduce recidivist behaviour and save lives on our roads.”
Mr Noel Brett, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority (RSA) said: “This is an important conference for the RSA, and indeed all stakeholders working in road safety, as it allows us to explore other ways of improving road safety and driver behaviour. We are now coming in to the final year of our current Road Safety Strategy and as we look towards the next phase of our work to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads, it is vital that we consider all options to address recidivist, high risk behaviour on our roads.”
As a result of recommendations made by Sir Peter North, rehabilitation courses for drink drivers have been in general use in the UK since 2000. The scheme allows courts throughout the UK to refer drink-drive offenders to an approved rehabilitation course. The drink driver makes a voluntary decision in court to participate in the rehabilitation programme and upon satisfactory completion of the course, will receive a reduction in their disqualification period of up to 25%. A report conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) in 2007 showed that such drink drive rehabilitation programmes are effective in reducing subsequent drink-drive convictions.
"A primary purpose of road traffic law is road safety - the prevention of death, injury and damage. Most offences are, however, the result of carelessness, inattention or incompetence. That is why remedial courses for those guilty of relatively minor offences, whether as an alternative to prosecution or in mitigation of a penalty, are such an important, and effective, way of dealing with offenders,” said Sir Peter.
Experts from Sweden, Belgium, Germany, the UK and Ireland also spoke at the conference, focusing on the effects of technical measures such as alcohol interlock devices and intelligent speed adaptation (ISA) and non-technical measures such as driver rehabilitation programmes in addressing recidivist behaviour and repeat offenders.
According to Mircea Steriu of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) who spoke at today’s conference, 1 in 4 of all road deaths in the EU are alcohol-related, and as many as 6,500 deaths would have been prevented in 2010 if all drivers had obeyed drink driving laws.
“Alcohol interlock devices have been in use in a number of EU countries since the 1990s, particularly in commercial transport, in an effort to reduce the incidences of drink driving. Finland was the first country in the EU to legislate on alcolocks in July 2008 and other countries such as Sweden and France have implemented similar programmes to address drink driving. In Denmark, there is significant public support for these measures, with 3 out 4 people in favour of an alcolock programme for first time offenders and recidivist drivers. The ETSC’s recommendation to the EU is that alcohol interlocks are fitted for repeat offenders and professional drivers in the first instance, and for all vehicles in due course.”
Professor Oliver Carsten, Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds presented his research into the benefit of Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) as an alternative sanction. ISA is an in-vehicle system that uses GPS to alert a driver to the speed limit in force at a particular location so that they can reduce their speed accordingly. At the conference, Professor Carsten said that the use of ISA could lead to a 28.9% reduction in the number of injury crashes and a 50% reduction in fatal crashes.
Among the other speakers at the conference was Dr Simone Klipp from the German Federal Highway Research Institute who presented the results of the EU DRUID Project which surveyed participants of driver rehabilitation programmes in Europe. 1 in 4 of the participants was detected because they had been involved in a collision, and the same proportions of participants were recidivists. Participants from programmes in nine countries were surveyed with almost 95% of participants rating the programmes as good or even better.
“The results of the DRUID survey indicate that the participants of the driver rehabilitation programmes believed that the programmes strongly supported their cognitive and behavioural processes of change. European group intervention programmes for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI) offenders show an average recidivism reduction rate of 45.5%. These results should motivate decisions-makers in countries who are yet to establish driver rehabilitation programmes to launch such programmes as an essential part of a comprehensive countermeasure system,” said Dr Klipp.
Mr Olof Stenlund, Alcohol Interlock Coordinator with the Swedish Transport Agency also spoke at the conference and shared experiences from the nationwide pilot programme for drink driving offenders introduced in 1999 until the permanent program in 2012. He referenced the Swedish Government’s commitment to fitting 75% of governmental vehicles with an alcolock by 2012 and the 75,000 voluntary installed alcolocks in vehicles used in commercial and public transportation in Sweden.
At the conference, Ms Beth Fylan of Brainbox Research in the UK spoke about the benefit of speed awareness courses and other driver remediations and Dr Tony Holohan addressed the issue of road safety as a public health concern.
One of the actions in the current Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012 seeks a review of the effectiveness of alternative correction/rehabilitation programmes for a range of road traffic offences, with a particular emphasis on high risk offenders. The RSA, along with other key stakeholders has conducted extensive research on the topic and thisInternational Conference on ‘Recidivist Behaviour and Driver Rehabilitation’ forms part of the process. It is hoped that recommendations will be presented to the Minister for Transport in the summer.
For further information:
RSA Communications Office: 096 25008