A course to rehabilitate drunk drivers has been delivered to over 18,000 people in Scotland since 1997.
The three week-long Drink Driving Awareness sessions are usually court-ordered and people caught drunk behind the wheel can get a reduction in their driving ban by completing it.
Richard Knight is associate director of VMCL, that delivers the course for Linlithgow drivers.
He explained: “With the reduced drink-driving limit in Scotland, it is vital people are educated about the effects alcohol has on the body and your ability to drive.”
The course for Falkirk drivers is delivered in St Michael’s Church and independent research has shown taking it reduces the chances of re-offending by 60 per cent. It costs £147 and the 16 hour class is spread over three weeks. Around 60 per cent of people banned from driving opt to do the course and reduce their ban.
Richard said: “Many drivers come to us with misconceptions on how much alcohol can put you over the limit and lots are quite naive to the real dangers of their actions.
“I always ask people at the start of the course what they think the worst outcome of their drink-driving is and most say losing their licence. By the end of the course, they realise that is the better outcome. Drink-driving can kill people. It could be a stranger, a friend or your own child.”
The Gazette spoke to two men with convictions who attended the course and both agreed it had benefited them.
Neither wanted to be named but the first was convicted five years ago and received a two year ban, reduced to 18 months if he attended the course.
He said: “When I was caught, it wasn’t the first time, or even the tenth time I’d got behind the wheel after drinking. I’d been out in Falkirk and planned to get a taxi home but there was a queue at the rank and I didn’t feel too drunk so I stupidly drove home and was stopped. I was twice the legal limit.
“I got a lot from the course, it educated me on just how dangerous alcohol and driving is. A lot of the messages have stuck with me. I now don’t touch a drop if I’m driving and I know I’ll never get behind the wheel drunk again.”
The other man was caught last year the morning after a heavy night and was just over the limit. His one-year ban was reduced to nine months if he attended on the course.
He said: “I was naive about the morning after and thought I’d be okay, even though I had drank a lot. And to be honest, having been on the course, I now know there were many mornings I must have driven over the limit.
“The course is excellent and just reprogrammes the way you think about alcohol. I’ve got a young daughter and I’m ashamed I have driven hungover and therefore over the limit.
“It’s made me re-evaluate my drinking habits all together. When I get my licence back, I’m going to get a breathalyser so I never put myself in that situation again.”
However, Richard warns personal breathalysers are not accurate and the safest way is to avoid alcohol if you have to drive the next day.