Programme helps curb recidivist drink drivers

Programme helps curb recidivist drink drivers

A course for recidivist drink drivers could reduce the road toll drastically.

So far, 50 have taken part, and none of them have reoffended. So could it be rolled out nationwide?

A quarter of crashes in New Zealand involve a drunk driver. Neville Arman has been there more than once.

"I've been driving for 30 years. I would've been behind the wheel drunk at least once or twice every week."

There have been arrests, convictions and disqualifications. Then Waikato police iwi liaison officer Anaru Grant turned up at his door, wanting to help him put it right.

"They get a shock, but when I explain why I'm there and that there's actually an opportunity to help them, I haven't had one person say no," says Mr Grant.

Mr Grant runs a one-day police programme for recidivist drink drivers in Hamilton. This week they celebrated six months since the programme launched, without a single case of reoffending.

"The course woke me up to myself," says Arman. "It forced me to have a look at my behaviour around alcohol consumption."

Twenty-eight percent of fatal and 20 percent of serious crashes involve alcohol and drugs, while the annual social cost of alcohol-related crashes to the country has been put at around $446 million.

It's a massive problem, but the secret to the new course is simple – the course is voluntary; people take part because they want to and the speakers have seen, first-hand, the devastation drink driving can cause and they don't pull punches.

"The first thing that strikes you is the smell and it's the smell of alcohol, smell of blood, twisted hot metal and – I don't know if people realise this concept – but the smell of despair too," says paramedic and course speaker Dave Jack.

Almost three-quarters of all alcohol-related deaths are caused by recidivist drink drivers, or those who are well over the limit.

"As a serving police officer in my past life, that was the hardest job you have to do is to go and knock on the door and get the mother and father to sit down and tell them that their loved one has passed away," says Mr Grant. "I don't know any police officer that finds that an enjoyable experience."

Sadly, the course has come too late for thousands of drink driving victims. But Arman says it's never too late for a drink driver to learn how to change his behaviour.

"At the end of the day it simply ain't worth it. Nobody wants a tragedy and nobody wants to cause a tragedy."

Mr Grant is keen to see the course rolled out nationally, provided the right people are involved. Part of the reason this one is so successful is the passion of the speakers.

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