A run-in for me and the Polo last month. I became a marginal speeder in the first week of November, due to a lapse in concentration or just plain ignorance, resulting in a speeding ticket landing on the doormat. What was the damage? A £60 fine and 3 penalty points or a National Speed Awareness course for £82 and no points on my licence. You can guess which option I took, although it wasn’t without some deliberation. But, when it comes down to it, £22 seemed a fair price to pay to avoid any endorsements. And all for going 35mph in a 30mph zone, on a country road, where I don’t remember either a camera or a warning sign.
So, the day before Christmas Eve, I found myself driving up the A12 from Essex to Suffolk (courses are usually offered in the county of prosecution) to an industrial unit in Ipswich, and to the four-hour class run by AA DriveTech, a specialist driver training division. There were 18 of us, with over half the class over 45 years of age plus; the instructor informed us that the average age of attendees on the courses was 40, and with up to three courses a day, over 60 people are retrained in the laws of the road daily. Why no young people? They choose to speed apparently, and so aren’t offered the educational alternative…
The statitstics gave food for thought. Motorways are the safest roads of all, with 55% of drivers accelerating past the limit, while the majority of accidents happen on urban roads; 69% of drivers speed in towns and cities. A speed camera costs a local authority £23,000 to install, and while Suffolk is one of the lowest camera-populated counties (with eight currently in use), I think I was caught by one of the numerous mobile sites. But by far the most shocking figure was that it costs over £1 million pounds to administer ONE death on the road, and as there were 2222 fatal casualties last year, the money spent soon adds up.
A theory session only, attendees must ‘pass’ the course (though no proof is given), and ‘actively participate’, so there are plenty of ways to interact, from speaking, to watching videos, to voting on multiple-choice questions with handsets straight from the set of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Basically a PowerPoint-powered refresher of Highway Code information, the courses certainly serve a purpose, and the videos showing changes in braking distances and what happens in a multiple pile-up graphically illustrate what effects even small increases in speed can have on potential accidents. Proof positive that speed does indeed kill.