Click on the link for the best practice guideline of the Romanian Drink and Drive Programme.

In Romania, the deadly drink & drive combination claims one of the highest number of casualties in Europe. High penalties are common use, but a high percentage of recidivism as well. So far, Romanian probation had no knowledge and skills to develop rehabilitation programmes for drink & drive convicts. A co-operation between Romanian and Dutch experts on probation and rehabilitation resulted in programme for this specific problem.

The Dutch probation organisation for (drug)addicts (SVG) and the Dutch probation agency (RN) were asked by their Romanian colleague’s to help develop a programme for drink & drive offenders in Romania together with a working group of 6 Romanian probation workers. “WhenI first came in Romania in 2012, what struck me, was the lack of knowledge of traffic safety, lack of data and lack of scientific information on drink& drive”, says Rob Mérelle, policy advisor drink & drive at  SVG and responsible for the development of the content for the Romanian programme. “The whole attitude towards alcohol and traffic is totally different from for instance the Netherlands. As a Romanian I met lively put it: ‘Drinking and driving is not a problem, as long as you don’t cause an accident.’ It became quickly clear that we had to start from the beginning. First step was an analysis of the current situation: who are the offenders, what are the roles of law enforcement and probation.  We identified 5 pilot regions and 240 probation clients with a record for drink & drive offense. This gave us information that worried us, but also created great opportunities. The worrying part was that half of our pilot group had an average permillage of 1.3 and even 1.5 and was involved in fatal accidents. In our experience, treatment of this group of ‘heavy’ users is not likely to be successful. A ‘simple’ drink & drive programme probably will not do. Furthermore, in Romania so far there is little coherent law and procedures to stop people from drinking alcohol and driving.  For the opportunity part: in Romania probationers are much longer supervised than we are used to in the Netherlands. This gave us an excellent opportunity to develop a programme that guides the clients for a much longer period, including a follow up programme.”

Next step was developing a drink & drive rehabilitation programme based on a Dutch model, but with a Romanian touch. This resulted in an extensive programme of 8 sessions, each session build in the same way. Mérelle: “Making the programme took about a year. It is a mixture of a west-European perspective of rehabilitation and Romanian context.  In practise, trainers in Romania have to give their own accents to the content, the programme provides in this. They know the specific situation and specifics about their training group.

In 2013, we were ready to train the first 10 trainers. Is was a great pleasure working with Romanian colleague’s. They were really enthusiastic, involved and eager to learn. After the training they immediately implemented the programme, which we closely monitored. The results were promising. The trainers found the programme adequate and easy to perform. Also the students themselves were positive.” After this successfully conducted pilot, last summer Mérelle and his colleagues trained 10 educators who will train trainers around the country in order to disseminate the programme throughout Romania. The Best Practice Guidelines are being set up. All the ingredients for dissemination in Romania, even other Balkan countries are there. This November during a final conference in  Bucharest the whole process of developing and implementing the programme will be  presented.  Mérelle: “I’m very positive that this programme will not only help our Romanian colleague’s to offer a rehabilitation programme adequate for their specific context, but I hope it will also help them to raise awareness of the great social importance of reducing the use of alcohol combined with traffic. Because the number of fatal accidents in this region at the moment is alarming high.”

Rob Mérelle is policy officer at the SVG head office in the Netherlands and since 2012 involved in the drink & drive programme in Romania. 

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