News release

Province Toughens Rules for Licence Reinstatement

SERVICE N.S./MUNICIPAL RELATIONS--Province Toughens Rules for Licence Reinstatement


Anyone convicted of drunk driving will have a tougher time getting their licence back under new regulations announced today by Angus MacIsaac, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. Before regaining the privilege to drive, the individual must have their likelihood to re-offend assessed.

"The Nova Scotia government takes road safety very seriously," said Mr. MacIsaac, "We're making sure that people who drink and drive won't get back on the road until they accept the responsibility that comes with a driver's licence."

As the department responsible for the operation of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is working to promote road safety in the province.

"We are pleased with today's announcement. The government is correct when it says that people who drink and drive are a serious threat to all Nova Scotians," said Geraldine Dedrick, president of the Halifax Regional Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "We applaud any steps taken by government that will reduce the occurrence of impaired driving and the heartache it causes."

Under the new rules, anyone convicted of driving drunk, or whose driver's licence is suspended for 90 days for an alcohol-related offence, will be referred to Addiction/Drug Dependency Services (ADDS), operated through the district health authorities, for assessment. The assessment will include a review of the person's available driving history, including convictions and collisions, criminal history and employment history. The person will be interviewed by an ADDS professional and complete a standardized self-assessment questionnaire. The assessor may also contact other people who know the individual closely.

Based on the assessment, the individual will follow a prescribed program of education and/or treatment. The risk of re-offence will be considered in developing each individual's program.

Low-risk individuals who successfully complete the program will have their licence reinstated. However, some conditions may apply. Additional measures, such as periodic substance abuse testing, may also be warranted.

"We want all Nova Scotians to fully understand the impact of impaired driving, to themselves, their families and friends, and their community," said Mr. MacIsaac.

"We think this is an excellent idea," said David Wilson, Cape Breton Regional Municipality associate police chief and president of the Association of Nova Scotia Police Chiefs. "While the assessment may put some additional pressure on people who drink and drive, it takes a lot of pressure off of everyone else." Eight other provinces conduct formal assessments of an individual's addiction situation before reinstating a driver's licence. Three jurisdictions use first offence assessments similar to the new Nova Scotia program.

"Driver assessments are one more tool we're using to rid Nova Scotia's roads and highways of drunk drivers. We believe this reinstatement process will minimize the potential for re-offence by the individual," said Paul Arsenault, director responsible for the department's road safety programs. "We already have 24-hour roadside suspensions for drivers with an alcohol level of .05 or greater. We've improved impound laws and we anticipate additional new legislation in the near future."

The assessment and treatment program, apart from monitoring and follow-up expenses, will cost $365 per person and will be paid by the individual. Reinstatement fees, which amount to $70 for a suspended driver and $100 for a revoked driver, will be extra.

When an individual applies to have a suspended/revoked driver's licence reinstated, the driver will be required to present a certificate confirming that the intervention program has been completed. The request will not be processed in the absence of such a certificate.

The need for these tougher measures is evident.

Each year, about 2,100 individuals are convicted of a driving-related alcohol offence in Nova Scotia. Approximately 1,500 of these individuals are first offenders. Of this group, about 1,000 complete the requirements for reinstatement. About 30 per cent of first offenders re-offend within the next year.

In 1999, the most recent year for which statistics are available, an estimated 23 people got behind the wheel after drinking and were fatally injured. Nineteen of them were over the legal limit for blood alcohol level, which is .08 blood alcohol content.

One critical element in implementing this program was finding a service provider with the experience, resources and location to deliver high-quality assessment, education and treatment across the province. Mr. Arsenault said that Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations contacted potential private sector service providers before recommending the district health authorities. None believed that they had the resources to deliver the required services province-wide at an affordable price.

FOR BROADCAST USE:

Nova Scotia is getting tougher with people convicted of drunk driving. Under new rules announced today by Angus MacIsaac, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, suspended or revoked drivers must be assessed before getting their licences back.

The convicted driver must pay three hundred and sixty-five dollars for an assessment. Reinstatement fees - seventy dollars for suspended drivers and one hundred dollars for revoked drivers - are extra.

Assessments will be conducted by Addiction/Drug Dependency Services staff across the province. Low-risk offenders will complete an education program, while others will undergo further treatment.

The Association of Nova Scotia Police Chiefs and Mothers Against Drunk Driving support the new assessment program.

Approximately twenty-one hundred drivers are convicted of alcohol-related offences every year, and officials from Service Nova Scotia say more legislation to combat drunk driving is planned.

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Contact:

Kevin Finch
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations E-Mail:
kjd            July 31, 2001       9:40 A.M.