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We attend a speed awareness course
Someone quipped that it was like being called into the headmaster's study for detention. But this was no laughing matter as we waited outside the hotel conference room waiting to be 'signed in'. This meant producing our driving licences, which ranged from the newer versions with photo IDs to my tatty 20-year-old specimen held together with Sellotape.
The state of licences reflected the age spread of the group - mid 20s to early 70s. Twenty three of us in all, including eight women. But we all had something in common - exceeding the speed limit. Not by a wide enough margin to automatically incur a £60 fine and three points, or worse. Instead, we had the option of attending a Speed Awareness Course. With an attendance fee of £85, it was more costly, but the carrot was that we would be let off the three-points. As one of my fellow wrongdoers pointed out: "It's a no brainer, isn't it."
The rules were strict. Anyone turning up late would forfeit their £85 and apart from 'comfort calls' and a 15 minute tea break, everyone had to stay for the entire four-hour session. We were warned that anyone 'standing in' for the real culprit risked a hefty fine and possibly prison and asked to switch off our mobiles. Not just for the usual reason of call interruptions, though. As Richard, one of our 'tutors', explained: "We have quite a number of well-known people turning up at these sessions. One was a footballer who was not best pleased someone used a video phone and put him on You Tube."
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Rules over, we were each asked to name the location where we had been 'caught' and the amount of excess speed. Most were in Hertfordshire - venue for the session was the Comet Hotel in Hatfield - with the odd one or two nabbed further afield. For me, it was in Suffolk while on holiday, where a mobile camera noted that I was doing 35mph in a 30mph limit along the A12.
Trainers were brilliant. I felt really relaxed. Miss H, 23
This exchange of information was a chance to break the ice and for some to volunteer their occupations, ranging from a retired teacher to a psychotherapist. Graham, the other tutor, pointed out that our session looked like being a good deal friendlier than the morning one. "Perhaps it's because of the presence of the ladies this afternoon - an all-male audience is inclined to be more hostile."
Added Richard: "You get some people coming here with a truculent attitude - 'I've been driving for 40 years and there's nothing you can teach me...'. The purpose of these sessions is not to give someone the opportunity to kick off. We're not here to have rows and we're not here to lecture you. We welcome constructive feedback and hopefully you'll leave having learned something."
Next came the debunking of the belief that the main purpose of speed cameras is to generate cash rather than help improve road safety. "Before any camera can be installed, there has to be evidence that its location has been the scene of eight deaths or serious injury," said Richard. "So, in cases of fatality, you might say that each one serves as a metal memorial."
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Neither was it necessarily the case that speed cameras were the automatic default in high-risk spots. Graham cited one road near a college with accidents involving students, many from overseas. Looking at the evidence of excess speeding, the local authority calculated that just one camera would generate more than £1m in fines, but instead it decided to 're-engineer' the road with chicanes and humps.
The info on stopping distances was eye-opening Miss B, 23
There were a couple of 'true or false' quizzes, which highlighted our woeful ignorance of The Highway Coded, and an exercise that had us all fooled. It featured a diagram of a main road with several junctions. Estimates of speed restriction ranged from 20mph to 50mph until Richard pointed out that it was derestricted because there was no 'street furniture' - street lamps and restriction signs. That took us further into the subject of signage and helped us to understand the reasoning behind so much apparent 'clutter'.
Recognise this driver habit pointed out by Graham? "Typically, you won't adjust your speed until you're past a restricted sign, but will start to increase your speed well before you see the derestricted one. It's a behavioural pattern - oh, no, I've got to slow down...goody, I can start to increase my speed again."
One inevitable question from the audience: Were there any instances where speeding could be justified - an urgent call to say that a loved one had been seriously injured in an accident, for example? "Yes, I can sympathise with this, it's highly emotional, but anyone in this situation risks harming someone else," said Graham.
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The gruesome facts
To illustrate his point, there were a couple of gruesome videos and statistics indicating a 1% fatality rate among pedestrians hit at 20mph, compared to 31% at 40mph. Hitting a pedestrian was described as "a bag of skin, bone and tissue, mostly containing water, coming up against a ton and half of metal and plastic - no contest".
And what about driver/passenger injuries? Despite advances in car safety design, force of impact is likely to scramble our brain against the skull, or slam our internal organs against the rib cage. "A lot of dead victims don't look that seriously injured - it's what happens inside that's caused the damage, in many cases a ruptured aorta," said Graham.
Informative, friendly and good group atmosphere. Well worth £85. Mrs O, 40
With the government deciding to retain the current MoT system, it was a timely opportunity for Richard to point out that 97% of accidents were down to driver error. "The MoT helps ensure that vehicles are mechanically sound - but there's no three-year scheme for testing the drivers."
And the lesson we were asked to take home with us? It's summed up in the acronym COAST - concentration, observation, anticipation, space and time.
Judging by the warm reception given to Richard and Graham at the close, it's a lesson most of us will bear in mind. Except for one potential recidivist who was overheard saying: "I was caught because my speed detector was switched off. Next time, I'll make sure it's on."
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What the others thought...
Speed awareness courses are usually run by local authorities and the police. The criteria is that education, as an alternative to prosecution, must be based on a driver's mistake, rather than a reckless or intentional act. In Hertfordshire alone, more than 40,000 motorists have attended courses since 2006. Those who re-offend within three years are not eligible for the course option.
Sample of comments from those who have attended one of these courses:
Very beneficial and I would like to believe that I will take all this into account. Mr C, 53
It was enlightening, enjoyable, interesting and very well conducted. Mr M, 60
I half expected to be 'talked down to' and treated as something of a 'naughty boy', but on the contrary. Mr F, 65
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The article could have been written with more consideration to Plain English though. I had to use a dictionary twice to look up the words 'truculent' and 'recidivist '. Never heard of them before!
It's annoying how luxury car drivers such as BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes believe it is their right to speed in the third lane on motorways! Flashing their lights and forcing other cars obeying the speed limit out of the way. It's surprising they don't get caught more often driving at such ridiculous speeds!
To young lads smashing windowes in old housie's in Glasgow .The police car came up the road at about 50 mile a hour .THIS IS WRONG BUT THEY DO IT ALL THE TIME TAM GLASGOW .BUT THE ARE COPPERS
Re Simon Coulton (comfy 1)
Empty headed comments like yours show your lame brained attitude to not being able to do exactly as you please, regardless of any one else, and their safety, The authority should rescind your license and ban you for ever, bet you drive a BMW.,
Life is so lonely .I need a woman who can love me back .I also uploaded my hot photos on
W e aｌt ｈ y b a r .C 0 M under the name of jeffer101..It’s the largest and best club for seeking CEOs, pro athletes, doctors, lawyers, investors, entrepreneurs, beauty queens, fitness models, and Hollywood celebrities.BTW,I am a rich and single man at present.Please Check it out!I’m serious.
Well, all I can say this
In the near future maybe cars are all fitted with GPS black box unit, that can see how fast we drive and send data back to a central unit, and fines are automatically sent out, I think that's maybe what the next plans in the future cars might be !,
As a electronics engineer I know GPS receiver can obviously send out location and speed information, so combine the two with a inbuilt data map of UK, and if exceeded speed then a signal automatically send out details then a fine on your doorstep......!
Then no need for speed laser or radar traps, and I am sure we all keep our speed down then !
perhaps the only way is to put a warning up to say that we have exceeded the speed limit prior to the car black box unit sending the data signal out via a transmitter.
(C) Philip Davies
Speed doesn't kill. Stopping very suddenly kills. Sitting here, I'm already travelling at 900 MPH, which is the speed at which the planet is revolving. I am not dying.
I drive a Subaru Legacy Estate, before I get the BMW, AUDI, MERC bashing....
Speed limiters would not work, after all as the national speed limit is 70, therefore even if a car is limited to 70, then what's to stop them driving at 69mph in a 20 or 30 mph zone , nothing, most accidents and deaths happen in these areas where there are pedestrians, not on motorways.
It won't belong before everything is controlled by big brother via GPS, but remember, those days when you were in control will soon be gone and you'll wish things were like they were in the old days.
Want to make roads safer, make all drivers spend a year on a moped, then restrict cars to under 1000cc for the first 2 years of driving, then test again after this to ensure that drivers have learnt more and are safe to be on the road, that's the ticket, make the government more cash....???? Or ????
By the end of the day I understood just what a d----k head I was and what I had not known !!! well worth any one taking this course and I am now 68 !!
I agree that new drivers should be limited in the power of the cars they drive for a decent length of time after they pass their driving test and parents should have more sense than allow their probably teenage children to drive powerful cars. Folk should realise that the speed limit is really only a guide how fast you should go - you have to take lots more things into consideration i.e. weather, road condition, is it a busy road, is it in a residential area. In my area the Council have put up signs and painted 20mph on the road - problem is cars can't read and drivers dont. Speed bumps are the only things that slow drivers down but as we haven't had any accidents in our area they are not considered.
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