In the UK, speeding is a common issue and a serious problem. It’s something our government and the police are trying to tackle head-on. Rather than by increasing penalties, the authorities hope they can cut re-offending by encouraging many speeders to take a speed awareness course instead.
In this article, we’ll be looking at why these courses exist, who is eligible for them and what to expect if you end up taking one.
Why raise awareness of speeding?
According to Direct Line, about 20,000 people are injured every year in accidents where speed is a factor. That works out to over 50 people every day.
Of those 20,000 people, around 3,000 of them are killed or seriously injured. As well as being dangerous for other motorists and passengers, speeding is a serious hazard for cyclists and pedestrians too. According to government figures, pedestrians are four times more likely to be killed when they’re hit at 40mph than by a vehicle going 30mph or less.
It’s not just the individuals who are involved in a collision who are affected by speeding. Friends and family are affected too. The case for raising awareness of the impact of breaking the speed limit is compelling.
Who’s eligible for a speed awareness course?
Most police forces in the UK will offer a speed awareness course to drivers who are caught going between 10% + 2mph and 10% + 9mph over the legal limit. You’ll probably be given the option to take a course if you’re caught going between 35mph – 42mph in a 30mph zone or between 79mph – 86mph in a 70mph zone.
Offending drivers are only able to take one course every three years. If you’re caught more than once during that period you’ll have to accept points on your licence and pay a fine instead.
Drivers who opt to take a speed awareness course don’t receive points on their licence and can legally tell insurers that they haven’t been convicted of a speeding offence. For this reason, it’s a popular choice for those looking to keep the cost of their insurance premiums down.
What to expect from a course?
The exact course content can vary, depending upon factors such as the type of drivers who are present in the session. Speed awareness courses are designed to encourage drivers to completely re-think their attitudes to speeding. It certainly isn’t designed to simply help offenders avoid being caught in the future. It’s hoped that they won’t be caught again by virtue of the fact that they won’t ever break the limit again.
Speed awareness courses cost between £85 and £100. This is about the same amount as the minimum fine for breaking the speed limit. Once you’ve factored in a potential saving on the increase in insurance premiums, this is still the cheaper option.
For motorists who’ve been driving for decades, challenging their ‘know-it-all’ attitudes can be an effective way to reduce repeat offences. Courses usually open with a quick-fire quiz on the Highway Code. Once speeding drivers realise how much they’ve forgotten from their driving lesson days — or how much the rules of the road have changed since they passed — they become more receptive to taking on new advice.
Drivers are then usually encouraged to list every excuse they can think of to justify speeding. With the help of the group, the course trainer goes on to demolish every conceivable excuse. To give an example, some might still consider emergencies to be an acceptable reason for speeding. But course trainers are keen to point out that a driver who is distracted by an emergency is at far greater risk of doing more harm than good.
For some drivers, it might simply be a case of improving their driving awareness. Courses provide tips on how to spot speed limit zones and emerging hazards. Training videos are used to give demonstrations of what can happen when a driver’s speed means they don’t have enough time to pay proper attention to the road.
Consider the consequences
Usually, a course will end with a discussion about the consequences of speeding. Many motorists might consider the fact they were caught speeding to be bad luck. But as the full spectrum of potential outcomes is revealed to them, they’ll hopefully come to realise that in this instance, nobody was hurt as a result of their excessive speed. This plain and simple fact makes them very lucky indeed.
How do I avoid breaking the speed limit?
Here are some of our top tips for staying within the speed limit:
– Setting off in the right mood is fundamental to safe driving. If you’re tired or angry then you are likely to present a danger to yourself and other road users. Take the time you need for a nap, or to calm down.
– Leave more time than you need for a long or important journey. Don’t set off in a hurry!
– If it’s an emergency, consider using another form of transport. A taxi might just get you there sooner anyway, as you won’t have to spend time looking for parking at your destination.
– Awareness is key — speed limits often change frequently from one area to the next, especially on single carriageway ‘A’ roads. Pay particular attention when moving between countryside and urban areas as this is where speed limits usually change most dramatically. Remember that Norwich city centre now enforces a blanket 20mph limit on all roads within the inner ring road.
Most importantly of all, remember the golden rule! Speed limits are not targets. They are legal limits that can be met when conditions allow. If driving conditions are dangerous you should drive below the limit at a speed you feel is appropriate.