Keeping you up to speed
Speed awareness courses are often offered as an alternative to a fine and penalty points, but what do they involve and what can you expect on the day?
Breaking the speed limit is one of the most common offences in the book, and very few people can honestly say, hand on heart, that they have never driven faster than the law allows. If you are caught speeding, either by a police traffic patrol, or by a roadside camera, you face a fine of around £100 and three penalty points on your licence. And that’s just the start of it; you’ll also find your car insurance may increase to reflect your driving record, and may stay up for several years while the points remain on your licence.
The problem is, some people don’t see speeding as all that dangerous. Doing 35mph in a 30mph zone is seen as something that everyone does, and it certainly doesn’t carry the same stigma as drink driving, even though it can be just as dangerous. Driving at 35mph instead of 30mph raises the fatality rate from 20% to 50%. Hit someone at 20mph, and there is a 99% chance they will survive. Hit them at 40mph, and there is a 90% chance they won’t, so speed really is more dangerous than most people think.
If you are caught speeding, within certain limits, anywhere but a 20mph zone, you may be offered a speed awareness course as an alternative to your automatic fine and points. You will still have to pay for this, but your licence will stay clean.
Not every police force offers these courses, and not everyone will be given this second chance, but if you are, it is well worth taking.
The cost of the course varies depending on the course provider and takes around four hours. You are required to bring your driving licence along with you to prove your identity and attendance at this course. You can usually choose the date and venue to suit you, including evenings and weekends, but don’t miss your appointment, or you’ll be referred straight back to the police for the standard fine and penalty points.
Speed awareness courses are not run by the police and they are not designed to make you feel naughty by sending you back to school. The aim of the course is exactly what it says – to raise your awareness of speed and its consequences.
There is no written exam, no driving test and you don’t pass or fail. However, to complete the course, you will be expected to participate fully in the session and share your thoughts and experiences. This is not just a half-day of dull 1970s road safety videos; this is a full and frank exploration of how and why we speed and the potential consequences if we do. For example, one of the sessions is normally a discussion of the various ‘excuses’ for speeding – virtually all of which are clearly indefensible in the cold light of day.
The aim of the course is not to help you avoid getting caught again, but to change your attitude to speeding and make you think twice about how fast you are going.
You might think that you’ll be spending your half-day with boy racers, but you’ll be surprised. The 25-30 people on your course are just as likely to be school-run-mums and pensioners as anyone else.
If you complete the course, then that is it; no points, no fine and nothing on your record. However, this is a one off chance, and if you are caught speeding again within three years, you will not get the same offer, so it is important to learn your lesson.
Of course, when you look back at the statistics at the start of this article, learning that lesson is important in more ways than one.