According to an internal Department of Transport inquiry, thousands of "high risk" drivers convicted of drink-driving managed to secure the return of their licences without undergoing the required medical checks. The inquiry surfaced in December 2011 following two road deaths apparently caused by drivers whose fitness to drive had never been properly checked, and who should not have had their licenses returned.
A scheme to deal with high risk offenders was introduced in May 1983, recognising the serious problem of certain drink drivers getting their licenses back at the end of a disqualification without checking their fitness to drive. High risk offenders are drivers who have been convicted of either repeat and/or serious drink-driving offences in the following circumstances:
- for being over to a half times the drink drive limit;
- for failing to provide a sample of breath or blood for analysis;
- or who have been disqualified on two or more occasions within a period of 10 years.
The scheme is of course a road safety measure, and relies on DVLA making contact with any driver convicted in these circumstances. The courts do not inform a driver if he or she is high risk because of the circumstances of conviction. Under the scheme such drivers require satisfactory medical records from their doctor and many have to produce the results of independent medical examination and blood tests arranged by DVLA.
The medical examination is designed to assess the drivers overall fitness and will looking to spot alcohol problems or dependency. High risk offenders will be required to produce a blood sample and undergo a medical examination. In addition, there will be an interview designed to elicit information that shows whether or not alcohol is an on-going problem. DVLA will refuse a new licence if there is evidence of persistent abuse of alcohol or dependency.
According to the internal report approximately 8000 drink drivers have been handed back their licences without proper checks. Some DVLA records have already been destroyed meaning that thousands of drivers who should have been required to undergo medical examinations will never be traced. However, the report indicated that around 8000 letters are to be sent out to drivers who have been identified as having been mistakenly given their licences back without required medical evidence.
It is likely that DVLA will be far more vigilant in future.