Drunk drivers who are told to take a responsible-driving course or install ignition interlock systems on their cars will now have a formal route of appeal, the B.C. government announced Thursday.
The new process will apply to anyone who is caught driving while impaired in the future and is referred to one of the remedial programs.
The Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles also plans to extend the formal review offer to 29,000 people who have been referred to the programs since 2005, but never completed them.
A further 7,000 people currently in the programs will get the same letter informing them of their right to ask for a review.
Nobody has been referred to either the Responsible Driver Program or the Ignition Interlock Program since mid-December, while the new review process was being developed.
Stephanie Melvin, deputy superintendent of motor vehicles, said it’s unclear how many appeals will result from the new process, but the provincial government will hire additional adjudication staff to deal with the increased caseload.
“We’re bringing on a few to start and then we’ll see how that goes,” she said.
Melvin said the change was prompted by “some good arguments” in judicial review petitions that prompted the office to look at the way it handles the reviews of referrals to remedial programs.
Earlier this year, the office said legal arguments in court challenges prompted it to cancel requirements for drivers to attend education classes and install ignition-interlock systems in 1,137 cases.
Melvin said Thursday that drivers in the past could always request a review, but the new process makes it more formal. “All of our decision letters now will include provisions to formally allow people to request a review of the decision.”
The reviews will be handled by a special team of people within the motor vehicle office, but separate from those individuals who made the decision to refer the driver to the programs in the first place.
The team will review drivers’ records and the reasons they give for wanting to be excused from the programs.
“We think these programs are very important in helping people separate their drinking from their driving, so the reasons will need to be quite compelling,” Melvin said.
The office is also going through its database looking for people who were referred to programs since June 2005, but failed to complete them.
Melvin said there could be any number of reasons why people never complete the programs.
“These could be people who have moved to other provinces, who have passed away, who have chosen not to drive because they owe a large amount of money to ICBC.”
The new review process applies only to the remedial programs and not to other driving prohibitions or penalties.