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Call for impaired drivers to complete course

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An education and counselling course offered to convicted impaired drivers should be mandatory, a counsellor said.

Fiona Elkinson who has treated hundreds of people, added the main reason participants attended the course was to have their road ban reduced by three months — a benefit for those who complete the programme.

She said the course was designed to deliver more, including facts and statistics on alcohol and drug consumption and the effect it has on driving ability and reaction times.

Ms Elkinson, an international certified addiction counsellor, said: “I am happy they are coming but I want them to look inside and recognise that impaired driving is a problem,

“I am here to save lives and to let people get into recovery from alcoholism or substance abuse.”

Participants on the course, which launched in November 2001, have to complete 12 hours of education.

The private programme, which costs $450, includes an assessment for alcohol or substance use and information on the emotional and financial costs of an impaired driving conviction.

It also outlines the stages of addiction and how to change behaviour as well as at least one hour of counselling, a session with Alcoholics Anonymous and an exit interview.

If there are serious emotional problems or signs of addiction, the programme recommends further counselling or treatment.

Ms Elkinson said: “I think of this programme as a safety net where we can catch them early and recommend for them to get help.

She added she had dealt with people who had admitted to driving while impaired “hundreds, even thousands of times”.

Ms Elkinson said: “My idea is that a lot of these people have substance problems and they have no idea that what they are doing is a problem because everyone around them is doing the same thing.

“If people did this programme, we could get them to turn themselves around earlier. We can intervene quicker. If we catch this too late it is very hard to recover.”

The DUI education programme used to attract about 100 participants annually, but there are only about 25 to 30 a year at present.

Ms Elkinson said her own family was affected by an impaired driving tragedy which spurred her to be involved in the programme.

“I have a family member who died as a result of DUI when I was a child. It affected my life profoundly. He hit a tree, died and left children who were my age behind. I was nine and the children were 11, 13 and 14 and left without a father.”

Ms Elkinson said it was a struggle to fund the course and the programme has had to downsize its office to save on rent.

The Department of National Drug Control is a partner, but no grants are given to the programme

She said extra funding would help her assess the programme's success through follow-up interviews.

She added: “I don't have funding to pursue that. We have all the records and we can still call people and find that out, but it is an expensive and time-consuming process.

“I know from people who keep in touch with me that they still feel that it has changed their life in many ways. They often tell me it makes a big impression.

“The DNDC gets funds from the Government and distributes them to different treatment places, but we are yet to get any funding.”

Ms Elkinson said some funding could be available from a private firm for her new Staying Alive programme, which is aimed at high-school pupils, but finding a slot in the schools' schedules was a problem.

Anyone who wants to sign up for the DUI course can contact Ms Elkinson at fiona@elkinson.com

Personal testimonies from people who have attended the course Bermudian Eugene Ball said: “I started the programme in November. Fiona is an excellent counsellor and took me through the entire steps of understanding what actually happens in the mindset of someone who has been driving under the influence.

“She has been a really good coach in regards to helping me change my life. I have been going through a lot of different things but I can say that I am never going to do it again.

“I am learning so much from her and the whole system is awesome. It is important. Many of us believe that if we have three or four drinks then we are okay, but that is not the case.

“It's a huge difference having one or two to having three or four. It's not worth it.

“Too many lives have been lost on our roads to sit up here and take that chance, whether it be our direct impact or we could be the ones who are sober and someone else is driving under the influence.

“I want everyone who has ever thought about drinking and driving, even if it it's just after one drink, to go out and look into this programme and see how much it can change your life as well. Taking this course has shown me a different light and it's something I won't do again.”

A Bermudian mother of two, who wished not to be named, said: “I went into town, had a couple of glasses of wine and that led to a couple more glasses. I thought I was okay, but I wasn't.

“I got behind the wheel and it was one of the most irresponsible decisions I have ever made. I was arrested at the top of Tee Street and they [the police] said I was all over the road.

“The eye-opening experience was being in court and hearing them read back the events. It was very late, I got out to talk to them and my car was rolling down the road as I hadn't put the brake on. It was evident I was inebriated.

“I was given a year off the road, the standard fine of about $1,000 and the offer of this course which would take three months off of the ban.

“I was telling myself it was the main reason I did it, but I knew then that it wasn't the first time that I had driven while drunk and alcohol had caused some problems in my life.

“I learnt a lot that I didn't realise. The overwhelming thing that stuck with me was I didn't realise how little alcohol it takes to not be in a good place to make the right choices. It showed how our perception changes after just one drink.

“My conscience would not allow me to do it again.”

UPDATE:This article was amended to correct the name of Eugene Ball

Fiona Elkinson, who was one of the speakers at the launch of the Drive for Change campaign's Impaired Driving Awareness Month two weeks ago, runs the DUI Education Programme.
Fiona Elkinson, who was one of the speakers at the launch of the Drive for Change campaign's Impaired Driving Awareness Month two weeks ago, runs the DUI Education Programme.
<p>‘I can honestly say that I will not do it again’</p>

Personal testimonies from people who have attended the course

Bermudian Eugene Ball said: “I started the programme in November. Fiona is an excellent counsellor and took me through the entire steps of understanding what actually happens in the mindset of someone who has been driving under the influence.

“She has been a really good coach in regards to helping me change my life. I have been going through a lot of different things but I can say that I am never going to do it again.

“I am learning so much from her and the whole system is awesome. It is important. Many of us believe that if we have three or four drinks then we are okay, but that is not the case.

“It’s a huge difference having one or two to having three or four. It’s not worth it.

“Too many lives have been lost on our roads to sit up here and take that chance, whether it be our direct impact or we could be the ones who are sober and someone else is driving under the influence.

“I want everyone who has ever thought about drinking and driving, even if it it’s just after one drink, to go out and look into this programme and see how much it can change your life as well. Taking this course has shown me a different light and it’s something I won’t do again.”

A Bermudian mother of two, who wished not to be named, said: “I went into town, had a couple of glasses of wine and that led to a couple more glasses. I thought I was okay, but I wasn’t.

“I got behind the wheel and it was one of the most irresponsible decisions I have ever made. I was arrested at the top of Tee Street and they [the police] said I was all over the road.

“The eye-opening experience was being in court and hearing them read back the events. It was very late, I got out to talk to them and my car was rolling down the road as I hadn’t put the brake on. It was evident I was inebriated.

“I was given a year off the road, the standard fine of about $1,000 and the offer of this course which would take three months off of the ban.

“I was telling myself it was the main reason I did it, but I knew then that it wasn’t the first time that I had driven while drunk and alcohol had caused some problems in my life.

“I learnt a lot that I didn’t realise. The overwhelming thing that stuck with me was I didn’t realise how little alcohol it takes to not be in a good place to make the right choices. It showed how our perception changes after just one drink.

“My conscience would not allow me to do it again.”

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Published March 22, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated March 22, 2018 at 5:35 pm)

Call for impaired drivers to complete course

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