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2011 Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Putting 90,000 People Back on Track

In early March, CAMH’s Back On Track, Ontario's Remedial Measures Program for Impaired Drivers, reached an important milestone – it had educated 90,000 clients since 1998.
Back on Track provides information and professional guidance to people who have operated a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. The program was created to help people learn to separate drinking and other drug use from driving.
Administered and managed by CAMH, Back on Track is provided at over 30 locations across the province from as far north as Kenora; as far south and west as Windsor; and as far east as Cornwall. All facilitators are qualified, trained and experienced Addiction Counsellors.
Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act requires convicted impaired drivers or roadside suspension “warn range” drivers, with more than one suspension, to successfully complete Back on Track before their licences can be reinstated. A warn range suspension is for drivers who are found to have a blood alcohol content ranging from .05 to .08 per cent. Participants must pay a fee of $578 (convicted impaired drivers) or $178 (warn range drivers) to cover the costs of the program.
Remedial Measures Manager Rita Thomas views the number of participants as a success due to the changes that have been made to the program and its promotion over the years. About five years ago, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario began mailing out the Back on Track information with drivers’ suspension notices. This marked a significant jump in the percentage of impaired drivers registering in the program. Online registration was introduced in 2008 which resulted in another boost to the numbers of registrations. Most recently the introduction of the Reduced Suspension with Ignition Interlock Conduct Review Program, which means that those drivers who plead guilty can get back on the road within months of their offence instead of a year, caused another increase in the percentage of impaired drivers registering for Back on Track. This means that the uptake of the program by impaired drivers has increased by 10 per cent over the last 5 years.
“I am particularly pleased with this,” said Rita, “because it means we are getting the excellent information contained in the Back on Track program out to more and more people.”
However, there could be as many as 35 per cent of convicted impaired or warn range suspension drivers driving under suspension without the benefit of learning from the Back on Track program, so Rita and her team will be launching a poster campaign in 2011 to promote the program at courts, probation offices, Service Ontario locations and with lawyers.
Requiring between eight and eleven months to complete, the program has three components assessment, education or treatment, and a six-month follow-up. Depending on the offense, drivers will be required to attend one or more parts of the program.
The 8-hour education program covers:
- the myths and facts about alcohol and other drugs
- how alcohol and other drugs affect driving performance and safety
- the legal and personal consequences of an impaired driving offence
- ways to separate drinking and other drug use from driving.
The 16-hour treatment program covers the same topics as the education program and also looks at:
- why people drink or use other drugs, and how it affects our lives
- ways to cut down or stop your alcohol or other drug use
- strategies and skills to manage mood, stress and anger
- strategies and skills to communicate effectively and to live a healthy lifestyle.
The follow-up interview is done six months after completing the education or treatment program.
To pass the program, participants must:
- not use alcohol, or drugs not prescribed by a doctor, for 24 hours before taking the program or while attending the program
- attend all scheduled program components and arrive on time
- actively participate in the program while treating other participants and staff with respect
- show they have learned how to separate drinking and other drug use from driving
- complete the required parts of the program.
Drivers ordered to take the program who don’t complete it will see the suspension of their licences or the Ignition Interlock condition on their licence continue until they do finish it.
Back on Track has literally put thousands of people back on the right track. The program has helped them learn about the effects of alcohol and other drugs on their body and behaviours. Separating their drinking from their driving, and saying ‘no’ to alcohol while coping with stress or anger has lead to healthier drivers and safer streets for Ontario.
Impaired driving offences include:
- a warn range suspension 0.05-0.08 per cent blood alcohol content
- driving or having care and control of any motor vehicle (including boats) when your ability is impaired by alcohol or other drugs
- driving or having care and control of any land or water motor vehicle when your blood alcohol content is more than .08 per cent
- failing or refusing to provide a breath or blood sample.
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Drivers ordered to take the Back on Track program who don’t complete it will see the suspension of their licences or the Ignition Interlock condition on their licences continue until they do finish it.
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