Have you been caught speeding and been given the option to go on a speed awareness course? Then what can you expect on a speed awareness course?
Before I start on specifics or describe how I ended up on the course let me first start by saying this is an advice/training course and you will not be judged on how you ended up on the course or your actions while on the course.
You will however, at times be asked to discuss or asked your opinion on specific subjects, but again at no point are your comments or answers judged.
How did I end up on the speed awareness course?
In August of this year I was caught committing the heinous crime of driving a motor vehicle at 39 miles per hour in a 30 zone.
Hands up I admit it but I wasn’t in my opinion driving dangerously. I pulled out to overtake a bus and increased my speed for maybe 15-20 seconds as I overtook the bus and then pulled back in again, returning to 30 miles per hour but in this time frame I was zapped by a road safety camera van. A few days later a summons drop through my letterbox.
Staffordshire Council send me a nice letter to say that I had been seen speeding and they issued a notice of intended prosecution (NIP) for the crime that I had committed however there was an alternative to point and a large financial shaped suppository, a speed awareness course. Not wanting to be stigmatised as a criminal and have 3 points on my licence I duly took the speed awareness course option and booked a course at a local centre at the next available opportunity, which was November.
Come 13th of November I duly arrived at the local course location to undergo my citizenry re-education and attend the speed awareness course.I guess you’re reading this because you had a similar experience or want to find out what to expect?
What can you expect on a speed awareness course?
Well, let’s take things a little bit more serious for a moment. Yes the comments I posted above are a bit flippant with the way I deal with speeding as yes I do speed on occasions and anybody who says they don’t is a liar, liar pants on fire. I’ve followed police cars for dozens of miles who were speeding with no blues and twos on.
Talk about hypocritical but posting them on YouTube would incriminate myself.The people who are actually on the course with me come from all Walks of Life and they where all caught speeding. There was quite a few old people, there quite a few young people and quite a lot of middle age people, both men and womon.
So, let’s start with the procedure of what to do and what happens if you’ve booking the speeding course. First, of all let’s check that you actually committed the crime and that you were actually driving the vehicle in question. If you weren’t then you shouldn’t be going on the course and you should be telling the police who was driving or its not your car!
Depending on which county you got caught speeding and the device that was used to capture you, will depend on what evidence they have. As I was caught in Staffordshire by a mobile safety camera van there was photographic evidence of me committing the crime. The letter which arrived also enclosed a web address and the case number of my crime.
When I logged onto the said Staffordshire website it showed four pictures of my vehicle with various markings over the top of the photographs. Actually the photos are so good in fact you can actually see that it is myself who is driving even though the photographs were taken from a great distance away, about 1/3 of a mile.
How do you go about booking the course?
Well, if you’ve been offered the course you should be presented with a web address or a telephone number with the letter of notice of intended prosecution.
This process changes from Council to Council but if you wish to go on their course, instead of taking the point then you agree to this on the provided website.
You then select a date on which you are free to attend. The course takes 4 hours, so please bear in mind that you must be there early so be there 15 minutes early for registration at the start of the course. Once you’ve selected a date you’ll be asked whether you want a morning or an afternoon course. The morning courses typically start at 8:30 till 12:30 and the afternoon courses start at 1pm till 5pm.
When you’ve selected the course you wish to take then you will be asked to pay a fee for the course in my case this was £100.
Once you’ve paid for the course its marked as booked and if you wish to change your booked date then a further fee will apply. If it’s 28 days before there’s no charge, if 7 to 28 days then there is a £40 charge and if less than 7 days before then then the fee is £85. (Nov 2018)
On the day of your course you are told to arrive early for registration but on my course we started bang on 8:30 and registration was done as we entered the class room and this involves showing your driver’s license or some other official photo based identification.
The course itself
Once you arrive at the course the room itself is setout like an informal dining room with tables seating 7 all facing the front of the room and each seated place having a workbook, a pen and a name plate on to which you write your name with a non permanent pen. First names only though as this is very informal from this point on.
The course starts with an introduction from the course tutors. This takes a few minutes and they ask you questions as a group, such as “Why are you on this speed aware was course?” and “Do you think you were speeding?” or “Do you think you’re speed was appropriate for the road/conditions?” to which the answers are “because I dont want points”, “no” and “not really”.
From this point on the instructors will tell you why all those statements are incorrect but not in a condescending manner but in quite an informal and sometimes slightly humorous manner, this is so you get to understand better why we have speed limits, how the speed limits are decided and what factors have made these speed limits. They even tell you who makes the speed limits in your local area as well as the temporary speed limits on the motorways.
As the course continues you’re lead onto how to determine what the speed limit is in certain areas. Such things as is the speed limit 30 within built up areas and how you can tell this and possible reasons why the speed limit is not what you would expect it to be. This is such things as lamp posts in built up areas, speed markers, signage as you enter certain roads, speeds on dual carriageways and motorways. Again all fairly routine stuff and getting you too perhaps be a bit more perceptive about the speed limit on the road that you drive.
There is work to be done and you will be given a workbook. Whether you choose to fill it in is totally up to you but you will be asked to work in a group and on your own to answer questions and answers are expected.
Whether you choose to participate or just sit there for 4 hours is entirely up to you!
One of the things that you will be expected to do is to look at local scenes and guess what the speed limit is on the roads in these pictures are. These pictures are usually hung around the room and this is to get you thinking about the speed limit on the roads with what to look for so you can make your own determination as to what the speed limit is and determining how you find out what the speed limit is on particular sections of road we then move on to the next part of the course.
What is hazard perception and how does speeding affects your ability to perceive any hazards and ultimately to stop avoiding injury to yourself or others?
I’m not going to go into great detail on what’s involved in this part of the course but some of the demonstrations do make you think about your actions if you’re speeding. I would however question the validity of the scientific experiments especially as the course still recommends the stopping distance is that recommended in The Highway Code. The same stopping distances I was told when I passed my test in 1987 and the same stopping distances originally written in the 1960s. Stopping from 70mph takes 375ft!
Next part was a bit harder and those who have taking their test in the last 10 to 15 years will have seen these hazard perception videos before.
You’re shown a video of a car driving along an average Street, which as you move along you have to count up the number of hazards you see along the way.
Too many hazards is just as bad as not enough hazards. But the instructor will go round the room after you’ve seen the video and ask you how many hazards you spotted. There is no right or wrong answer, so don’t be afraid to say how many hazards you spotted.
You’ll be shown quite a few of these videos and the idea is to show you that your speed is relevant to your hazard perception.
Why where you speeding?
The next thing our instructors went through is “Why were you speeding?”
They ask this question and the answers came thick and fast.
“I was late”, “I wanted to get there quickly”, “I was stressed”, “I didn’t realise I was speeding” and a few others.
The instructors then went on to show you that by doing 10 miles per hour extra over a long journey would only equate to arriving a few minutes earlier.
So, the message here was the faster you go the less the returns are for the speed that you were doing but the greater the risk to yourself and other road users.
There was also a few other messages within the course but I’ll leave those for you to find out yourself but to quickly summarise there is nothing bad in the course. It was actually quite interesting!
The message of course is “stop speeding” but perhaps being told not to speed by an instructor was better than being told “Stop speeding” by a police officer!
Throughout the course tea coffee and biscuits where available. I did try to drink and eat £100 worth a coffee and biscuits but alas I failed.
There is a 15-minute break halfway through the course for such things as a toilet and smoking break but if you need a wee just get up.
Conclusion, did I find the course useful?
So, the big question I can hear you ask is “did I find the course useful?”
Well, Yes and No.
I’ll cover Yes, first.
Throughout my driving career I have undertaken many driver training courses and over the past 30 years have attended driver awareness, hazard perception, driving at speed, race training and skid training days, bad weather driving courses and many more. So, this I see as just another training day. Albeit a quite expensive one but one that saved me from getting 3 points on my licence and a possible increase in my insurance premium.
Some of the information contained in the course I did find quite interesting and will take this on board in the future.
Now, let me address “no” very quickly.
As someone who drives a great number of miles each year I think the war on speed is the easiest and most profitable route our authorities are willing to take.
I would love to know the statistics of how crashes actually happened and if speed is actually the no.1 factor or is a symptom of the things drivers are doing behind the wheel?
In the past years I have seen hundreds of people texting, Facebooking or other mobile phone related things.
People with enough vape smoke in their cars it looks like their driving a cloud, people driving down the road watching YouTube. I’ve even seen a van driver watching porn while driving down the M5!
People driving while eating, drinking, putting make up on, etc, etc.
I also see a lot of people still hogging the central lane on the motorway when the nearside lane is empty all the way over the horizon, even though this is now an offense (I doubt anyone has been done for this as it’s not as easy to police as speeding).
I also question whether or not this is a money-making exercise because on the day I attended there was 28 people paying £100 each. Which makes £2800. If you deduct maybe £800 for the instructors wage, equipment hire and the room hire that’s £2,000 possible profit for each course attended.
Where does the money go?
Probably in to the police coffers or maybe on more speed enforcement vehicles?