Drunk drivers have to take personal responsibility for the choices they’ve made.
This, Saskatchewan Impaired Driver Treatment Centre (SIDT) director Michele Ketzmerick said, is the key to preventing people from drinking and driving.
“Due to the whole philosophy of the programming, it’s up to them to change. We’re not telling them what to do,” she said.
Pausing for a second, she added with a laugh: “We’d like to tell them what to do. Or, we know what they should do, but it’s up to them to make a choice to not drink and drive in the future.”
The Prince Albert-based SIDT is the only facility of its kind in Canada, and is the envy of judges across the country, Ketzmerick said.
With Saskatchewan receiving recognition this month as the worst province for drunk driving, the centre is of particular importance, she said.
Using 2011 numbers, Statistics Canada recently released a police-reported drunk driving rate of 683 per 100,000 people in Saskatchewan, while Canada as a whole reported 262.
With between 400 and 500 people taking part in the SIDT’s three-week program per year, Ketzmerick wonders how much worse the statistics would have been without it.
The Ministry of Health funds the 28-bed facility, although it is technically a correctional centre. Offenders, called clients at the centre, usually have at least two impaired driving-related charges under their belt before a judge sentences them to the centre.
During their 21-day stay at the centre, a holistic approach is taken toward preventing future behaviour that could send them back before the courts.
“Most people don’t wake up in the morning and say they want to have a miserable life, or ‘I want to be a problem drinker or be a drunk driver,’” Ketzmerick explained.
With six counsellors on staff -- four full-time and two casual -- clients’ excuses for driving while intoxicated are looked into, and a future plan is laid out.
“It’s about helping people to make other choices and how can we increase their motivation to make other choices, so they learn social skills -- how to say no, how to be assertive and say no,” Ketzmerick said.
Quite often, cloudy judgment leads people to believe that they’re sober enough to drive home.
Due to the whole philosophy of the programming, it’s up to them to change. We’re not telling them what to do. - Saskatchewan Impaired Driver Treatment Centre director Michele Ketzmerick
“Some will say, ‘it was only three blocks,’” Ketzmerick said. “It was three blocks with five kids you could have it!”
Assisting counsellors in making their case that drunk driving can come with very serious consequences in addition to the prison sentence they’re serving, members of the RCMP come in to share a policing perspective.
“They see the impact of what … could possibly happen,” Ketzmerick said.
“They show some actual accidents, and some of it is pretty graphic, but people don’t realize -- if I do this again, this can happen. This is the potential of harm -- serious harm and death.”
A cultural component has also been tied into the program, which includes a trip to a sweat lodge.
The SIDT appears to be working, Ketzmerick said, with clients boasting an 88 per cent increase in self-confidence and 84 per cent increase in decisional balance, as determined by entrance and exit evaluations they complete.
“They know what they have to do,” she said. “It’s guided learning. If we stand up and tell them what to do and lecture to them, they will learn less.
“I think it’s very important that we do what we do. Who doesn’t know someone who’s been killed by a drunk driver?”
During the 2011/12 fiscal that ended in March, the Saskatchewan Impaired Driver Treatment Centre took in 421 clients. Of these clients:
337 -- men
84 -- women
72 – under the age of 25
245 -- between the ages of 25 and 44
104 -- over the age of 45
41 -- elementary school
314 -- high school
65 -- post secondary
207 – single
146 – married
67 – other
208 – employed
144 – unemployed
69 – other