Motorists convicted of drink drive offences will be automatically offered the opportunity to undertake rehabilitation training from Monday.
The announcement was made by Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon on Friday.
At present referral to the course is at the discretion of the court, however, the change to the law will make referral onto this course automatic.
Provisions will remain in place if for special reasons the court decides attendance would be inappropriate.
Anyone who completes the approved rehabilitation training, known as the course for Drink Drive Offenders, will also have their disqualification period reduced by up to 25%.
Minister Nichola Mallon said: “The challenge to curb drink driving is not only about enforcement – it is also about education. I want to make sure people who are convicted of drink driving learn from their experience and - crucially - do not go on to offend again.
“These courses are crucial in making a positive difference, not only for the individual offenders who complete the training, but also for the wider community sharing the use of the roads.”
She added: “While the change in legislation will make referral to the course automatic, the decision to enrol will remain voluntary. That said, based on the current level of take up, this change has the potential to more than double the number of course participants."
The Department for Infrastructure has commissioned a number of reconviction studies to examine the impact and value of this training in reducing re-offending. The most recent study demonstrates that people who have completed a course are less likely to reoffend than those who have not attended. Indeed the evidence available to date shows this applies for up to four years after the course has been completed.
The Minister added: “Drink driving can seriously injure or kill, causing devastation to victims and families. I want to do what I can to stop it.
“A drink driving conviction can also have life changing consequences for many individuals and families. I don’t want anyone to be in this situation and therefore my core message remains never ever drink and drive.
"However, when drink driving does happen, I want to enable the risk of re-offending to be addressed right at the point of conviction. Making maximum use of approved drink drive offender courses will help offenders to take personal responsibility for their drinking and their driving – and to understand why the two should never be mixed.
“I would encourage any driver who receives a drink drive conviction to take up the offer of completing a course. Safeguard everyone’s future by learning to make the right decision around alcohol consumption and the ability to drive safely.”
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “We welcome this new legislation which we hope will both deter and re-educate those people who have been detected drink driving.
"The police service see the value in re-educating drivers and reducing reoffending, so this automatic referral scheme for convicted drink drivers will be a positive step towards changing attitudes and behaviour.”
Mr Byrne: “Despite reduced traffic levels during 2020, police detected 3,409 drivers who failed a roadside breath test and made that incredibly selfish decision to drive after drinking alcohol or taking drugs. We will continue to enforce the road safety legislation and prioritise the detection of road users taking unnecessary and potentially life-changing risks.
“We will also continue to work with our government, emergency service and road safety partners to promote the road safety message. We all share the responsibility to prevent deaths and serious injuries on our roads: Please slow down; Wear a seatbelt; Pay attention to your surroundings and do not use mobile phones while driving. And never ever drink or take drugs and drive.”