Research Papers

Warn Range Offenders: Who Are They and Do They Benefit from Ontario's Back on Track Program?

Filename 6A-Wickens-FP.doc
Filesize 261 KB
Version 1
Date added June 30, 2016
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Category 2016 CARSP XXVI Halifax
Tags Research and Evaluation, Session 6A
Author/Auteur Christine Wickens, Rosely Flam-Zalcman, Gina Stoduto, Chloe Docherty Rita K. Thomas, and Robert E. Mann
Stream/Volet Research and Evaluation

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Background/Context: In 2009, legislation was enacted in Ontario that enabled police authorities to issue roadside licence suspensions to individuals caught driving with a BAC from 0.05% to 0.08%, known as the “Warn Range” (WR). Repeat WR offenders are also required to attend the Back on Track (BOT) remedial measures program.

Since the introduction of WR legislation in Ontario, there has been debate concerning the characterization of WR offenders. Are these drivers similar to the Criminal Code (CC) offender group (those caught driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher) or does the new legislation apprehend primarily normative social drinkers, who likely experience lower rates of substance abuse and related problems than the CC offenders? If WR offenders represent a lower risk group, these drivers may not benefit from BOT in the same way that the CC offenders have."
Aims/Objectives: The current study aimed to provide: (1) a preliminary characterization of Ontario drivers charged under WR legislation, and; (2) an initial assessment of outcomes associated with BOT participation among WR offenders.

Methods/Target Group: To provide a preliminary characterization of drivers charged under WR legislation, a subsample of 727 WR offenders who completed a Client Information form between May, 2011 and June, 2013 was drawn. For comparison purposes, samples of 3,597 first-time CC offenders, and 359 second-time CC offenders, who completed assessments between January, 2012 and June, 2012 were drawn from program records.

To provide an initial assessment of outcomes associated with BOT participation among WR offenders, a second subsample consisted of 394 BOT WR participants from whom pre- and post-workshop questionnaires were collected and successfully matched using probabilistic matching processes from May, 2011 to September, 2012.

Results/Activities: Similarities between the WR and first-time CC participants were apparent. Like WR participants, first-time CC participants were younger and predominantly unmarried. They had similar levels of education, rates of full-time and part-time employment, and driving history. WR offenders scored higher on risk of problem drinking and drink-driving recidivism than either of the CC offender groups. Second-time CC offenders scored higher on these measures than first-time CC offenders.

In assessing BOT outcomes for WR participants, responses to 11 of the 13 pre- and post-workshop questionnaire items demonstrated statistically significant change in a positive direction. Participants improved in their knowledge of drink-driving, their assessment of the dangers of drink-driving, and reported levels of negative affect. They also expressed increased intentions to avoid driving after consuming alcohol.

Discussion/Deliverables: These results suggest that WR offenders are not merely normative social drinkers and are not a distinct group from CC offenders. Rather, WR offenders share a similar demographic profile to that of first-time CC offenders and they report significantly higher risk of problem drinking and recidivism. The WR offender group may include high-functioning problem-drinkers who are likely to continue drink-driving and who may escalate to a CC drink-driving offence. Like CC offenders, WR offenders benefited from BOT participation.

Conclusions: These findings verify the importance of Ontario’s WR legislation as a tool to curb drink-driving, and confirm the potential value of BOT participation for WR offenders.

Christine Wickens, Rosely Flam-Zalcman, Gina Stoduto, Chloe Docherty Rita K. Thomas, and Robert E. Mann