I attended my first (and hopefully last) Speed Awareness course yesterday evening in Milton Keynes. This AA Drivetech course was run by an ex- long serving Thames Valley police officer who had 20-odd years experience as a traffic officer and therefore knew what he was talking about.
There were 28 of us, split into groups of 4. There were a few group activities but what made the whole course more interesting was the use of keypads so we could "vote" for answers to various questions, some based on the Highway Code (how long since you read a copy?) and some on observation. It was obvious that quite a few of us were oblivious to some regulations, quite possibly since they had been introduced since we passed our driving tests. For example, did you know the speed limits for vehicles over 2 tonnes are lower in both national speed limit zones and on dual carriageways than for cars and motorbikes; and different again for lorries over 7.5 tonnes; and different yet again if towing?
At the beginning it was obvious that some people weren't happy to be there at all (be careful because you are expected to "engage") but by the end I think all but one were grateful for the education.
The tutor came up with all sorts of interesting stuff, including an argument against the perception that speed cameras are only there to make money. Based on the Thames Valley area, which has nearly 300 fixed cameras, only around 10% of them are active at any one time (so the 50% of attendees who were caught by one were described as "very unlucky"!). At the same time, most speeding occurs on motorways - yet the vast majority of Gatsos are on urban roads (since they tend to be installed where serious injuries or fatalities have already occurred). His argument was that if speed cameras were a run as commercial concern, surely every camera would be active and all the cameras would be on motorways instead?
You only get one chance in three years to attend these courses, but if given the choice, I would encourage anyone to take it. The Government very nearly closed the scheme (I presume to save money) but its been shown that the re-offence rate from attendees is something like 1-in-12, compared to points-takers who are 1-in-4 likely to re-offend. By doing the course, you avoid points on your license (although the fee is likely to be slightly higher than the fine) and you are not legally obliged to tell your insurer. However, they can ask you if you've been on the course and you are legally obliged to tell the truth - some insurers regard it as education and may lower your premium - some may not.
3 days ago