Friday 9 December 2016

Safer scheme to stop young driver from re-offending to be rolled out across country

Greg Harkin

Published 15/10/2015 | 09:47

Nine social entrepreneurs secured funding and support worth €600,000 at the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI) Awards sponsored by DCC plc at the Mansion House in Dublin on Tuesday evening, 13TH of October. Pictured are the three winners of the SEI Impact Awards, Darren Ryan, CEO (left) with Tommy Breen, CEO of DCC plc, Gary Doggett of Pro-Social Drivers Programme, Stephen Plunkett of U-Casadh and Irene Lowry of Nurture (right). Pic. Robbie Reynolds
Nine social entrepreneurs secured funding and support worth €600,000 at the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI) Awards sponsored by DCC plc at the Mansion House in Dublin on Tuesday evening, 13TH of October. Pictured are the three winners of the SEI Impact Awards, Darren Ryan, CEO (left) with Tommy Breen, CEO of DCC plc, Gary Doggett of Pro-Social Drivers Programme, Stephen Plunkett of U-Casadh and Irene Lowry of Nurture (right). Pic. Robbie Reynolds

A safer-driving scheme which has massively reduced re-offending rates among young drivers will be rolled out across the country after it was saved from possible closure by an awards grant.

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The Pro-Social Driving Course in Co Donegal sees careless and dangerous drivers come face-to-face with relatives of people killed on our roads.

They are ordered to do the four-week programme by District Judge Paul Kelly who takes it into account when sentencing offenders.

Convicted drink-drivers seeking the early return of driving licenses have also been sent on the course.

The programme has been saved from closure thanks to a €140,000 award from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

Course Director Gary Doggett won the award at a ceremony at the Mansion House on Tuesday night.

It came just months after some county councillors in Donegal refused to consider funding for the programme.

Just one motorist has re-appeared in court on driving charges out of the 138 people who have successfully completed the course over the past three years.

The re-offending rate nationally is 30pc.

“Judge Kelly is now in discussions with other judges in the Midlands and Border counties about extending the scheme,” said Gary.

“It’s only a few months ago I was sending begging letters to some county councillors in Donegal seeking their financial help and being told we weren’t being included in any sort of funding.

“This award pretty much saves the whole project and we can now look at expanding it to other areas.”

Transport Minister Pascal Donohoe has confirmed he is looking at proposals to extend the scheme.

“We’ve looked at international best practice when it comes to restorative justice programmes and included all of that in what we do,” said Gary.

“We don’t actually do any driving during the course; we have group-based discussions. Motorists facing serious charges get to listen to gardai, ambulance personnel and fire crews about what they have to deal with at accident scenes.

“There is a realisation of how driver behaviour can affect so many different people, including those injured in incidents and the relatives of people killed in them.”

The head of traffic in Donegal Gda Insp Michael Harrison told the Irish Independent: “This is the most advanced scheme of its kind in the world.

“Never before has enforcement and education been brought together like this and I am delighted for Gary and all those involved in this project.

“The rate of re-offending in this country is very high and we appear to have a system now which, at this stage, is working to reduce it. We must now extend it as far and as widely as possible.”

Judge Kelly treats each case differently but often reduces charges and fines for those who successfully complete the four-week Pro-Social Driving course.

The Department of Transport said it has asked the Road Safety Authority to prepare a report on the scheme six months ago. A spokesman said the report was still not ready.

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