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Get caught speeding and there are some things to console yourself with. It need not mean the end of your clean licence and possible rise in insurance premiums. And you may come out of it a better driver.
That’s because drivers who have broken the speed limit can be offered a speed awareness course rather than the £60 fine and three penalty points. The National Speed Awareness Scheme has proved to be unexpectedly popular with drivers since its launch in 2008. And with numbers caught speeding gradually going up – hence the changes to speeding fines in April 2017 – so drivers taking speed awareness courses has increased. In 2016, 1.19 million drivers attended one of these courses. That’s a 165 per cent increase compared with 2010. But if you plump for a course rather than the points, what can you expect? We investigate.
The National Speed Awareness Scheme has been designed to incorporate punishment with education. They are offered to drivers exceeding the limit by between 10 per cent plus 2mph and 10 per cent plus 9mph. Whether drivers are offered a course is at the discretion of the police force where the offence took place; they will notify the offender, in writing.
As of March, 2017, anyone caught speeding on a motorway with variable speed limits can be offered a speed awareness course at the discretion of the local chief constable.
The idea behind a speed awareness course is to change drivers’ behaviour and attitude rather than simply punishing them. The aim is to make them understand the consequences of inappropriate speed and help them identify different speed limits and hazards. But the course is modular and varies depending on where they are in the country. Some courses are purely theory; some include a practical element that adds an extra hour to them.
A speed awareness course won’t involve a smart Alec police officer making drivers squirm like worthless criminals. The police force is the organiser. However, courses are hosted by individuals from both the public and private sector who belong to the snappily titled Association of National Driver Improvement Course Providers. Courses typically have between 25 and 40 drivers attending.
If you think a speed awareness course is the cheap option, think again. Courses usually cost between £70 and £100. And they’ll take between four and five hours. If you’re self-employed, that’s time that you could be earning money.
This isn’t an excuse to persistently speed and hang onto your licence month after month. Drivers may only attend one course every three years.
It’s a myth that by accepting a speed awareness course rather than the points, there’ll be no impact on a driver’s insurance premium when renewing. You must disclose that you’ve been on a course to your insurer. And most insurers consider going on the course to be the same as taking the fine and penalty points: you’ve still been caught speeding. If you don’t disclose that you’ve been on a course an insurer could refuse cover if you claim.
Refuse to go quietly, challenge your speeding ticket and you lose the option of a speed awareness course as a means of punishment.
When the courses were evaluated in 2011, the National Driver Retraining Offender Scheme concluded: “A total of 99 per cent of clients who responded at follow-up reported that they had changed their driving after attending the course, notably driving more slowly, being more aware of the road environment and of their speed, and feeling less stressed while driving.”
Former shadow chancellor of the exchequer, Ed Balls, went on a course. He said: “I ended up in the Holiday Inn with 39 others. The course was very professional and really worthwhile. What hit home were the statistics which link speed to road deaths. At 20mph, less than 10 per cent of people will lose their lives if hit by a car. But the probability rises exponentially, going above 40 per cent at 40mph.”
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