Treatment is best option for dealing with impaired drivers

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In response to the question of "What does it take to get the message?", Andy Walker does make sense with his opinion on impaired driving offences. However practically all measures to combat driving impaired are aimed at deterrence and the use of suspensions, fines, and incarceration.

For the main part this is being found to be successful, but as Walker suggests, it is not working for many repeat offenders who continue to drive while impaired despite any deterring consequences.

Punishment and deterrence have been the primary modes to address crime since time eternal. For some this works, but for hardened criminals, repeat offenders, the mentally impaired and individuals in any form of chronic addictions, it has always been a dismal failure.

The choices of having to effectively deal with such people are basically three: 1) permanent incarceration, 2) execution, 3) treatment.

Examining these alternatives, we know that permanent incarceration, although effective, is extremely costly to taxpayers. Execution, also extremely effective and far less costly, has been declared legally and morally wrong in this country. Consequently we are left with the third option - treatment.

The United States has used lengthy jail sentences or punishment as a deterrent to crime. Once again this works for some only because eventually inmates are free and resume being a threat to themselves and society.

It has been proven repeatedly that the longer people are incarcerated, especially without significant treatment, the less likely they are to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.

Unfortunately, due to public pressure, largely created by the media, our federal government is moving towards increased incarceration for criminals as a way of deterrence and protection for the public. This has been proven to not work in the U.S. and definitely will not work in Canada. It appears our federal government believes this aggressive stance on criminal behaviour will win them votes and popularity.

For those who support this stance you would do well to consider that this will eventually result in criminals, who are now more criminalized, being released back into society when, like RCMP Sergent Blackadar reported, the crime rate goes back up. This approach is expensive and will result in larger federal debt, increased personal taxes and less resources available for areas such as education and health care.  

All this leads back to treatment - the only real opportunity to help people to reform and protect society.

When people are treated, even forced to, they stand a realistic chance of recovery, therefore reducing danger to society, lessening costs to government agencies and helping them become contributing members of society.

I do agree with many of the progressive measures government has used regarding impaired drivers such as treatment and the use of the ignition interlock breath unit. However chronic addicts cannot be controlled by deterrence. Treatment is the only option.

One example of this is the popular author, Melody Beattie, who in her mid 20s was ordered by the judge to go to treatment and stay there for "as long as it takes," for her criminal offences as a result of her drug and alcohol problem. Eight months later she had recovered and has remained so for approximately 40 years and has helped millions of people in recovery.


Bill Campbell


Summerside, P.E.I.



Geographic location: United States, Canada, Summerside

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