Research Papers

Risk assessment of Impaired Driving Offenders in Canada: Knowledge and Practices

Filename 5B-Katherine-Wood.pdf
Filesize 62 KB
Version 1
Date added May 8, 2011
Downloaded 5 times/fois
Category 2011 CMRSC XXI Halifax
Tags Session 5B
Author/Auteur Katherine Wood, Robyn Robertson, Ward Vanlaar, Thomas Brown


Purpose: The Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) is conducting a study to explore current knowledge and practices relating to the risk assessment of impaired driving offenders in Canada. This project is funded by a team grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) that supports a transdisciplinary program of research examining DWI onset, persistence, prevention and treatment. Different types of risk assessments of impaired drivers occur within the criminal justice system and the administrative driver licensing system. The justice system functions in accordance with Federal law and is uniformly applied across Canada. Conversely, the licensing of drivers is administered by provincial authorities. As such, available remedial programs, education/treatment services and re-licensing practices can vary substantially. The purpose of this project is to: 1) gauge knowledge among justice and licensing professionals regarding effective risk assessment tools and practices; 2) to examine the use of risk assessment procedures in both systems; and, 3) to identify and explore barriers that impede the use of effective risk assessment strategies. The goal is to develop an educational primer to share critical research on the risk assessment of impaired drivers, to create a common body of knowledge, and help put research into practice.

Methods: Focus groups are being conducted across Canada to hear from justice professionals, treatment staff, remedial program and licensing staff that are engaged in the risk assessment and manage impaired drivers. The aim of the focus groups is: 1) to determine the current state of knowledge regarding risk assessments; 2) to inventory risk assessment instruments, tools and strategies that are currently applied to impaired driving offenders; and, 3) to identify weaknesses/barriers that practitioners routinely encounter in the process. Based on the focus groups outcomes, a survey may be used to gather additional information and further explore relevant content for the primer.

Results: Preliminary results suggest that practitioners in the justice and licensing system have limited knowledge and understanding of the scientific literature pertaining to the risk assessment of impaired drivers. One reason for this is inconsistent or non-existent training opportunities in conjunction with diverse educational qualifications staff may possess. Risk assessment tools are applied for different purposes, staff may be unfamiliar with the reliability/validity of instruments or the proper interpretation of test scores. Agency practices can also vary within a single jurisdiction. Barriers include a lack of professional development activities and staff support, limited resources per offender, inadequate tools and instruments, staff turnover and the inability to mandate compliance among offenders. These findings will be discussed in the context of justice and licensing systems and will spotlight practices that are working well. Recommendations to overcome the gaps and limitations will be suggested.

Conclusions: This study is designed to identify what is known about risk assessment of impaired drivers and examine the diverse and varied ways that assessments are administered across Canada. It explores critical gaps and barriers, proposes ways that the risk assessment of impaired drivers in Canada can be improved and highlights new avenues of research.

Katherine Wood, Robyn Robertson, Ward Vanlaar, Thomas Brown