I went on a Speed Awareness course in Newbury last week and a few interesting things came out of it. Not enough things to fill four hours but still, a few are better than none.
Like everyone else I was glad to be there because the alternative was points on the licence and inordinately more expensive insurance for the next five years, and we all gladly put up with four hours of boredom and patronising questions instead of that.
We were split into groups and invited to discuss our misdemeanours among ourselves while waiting for the course to begin. Since we were all there for driving at about 35 in a 30 limit, it wasn’t exactly Crimewatch. Fortunately I arrived nearly last, and didn’t have to listen to my neighbours’ gripping stories for long.
About half of the two dozen offenders present had been caught speeding in Wales. The Welsh half included me. In fact, I struggle to recall a speeding ticket I’ve collected anywhere else.
According to one of our educators, in the early days you had to attend speed awareness courses in the area where the offence was committed. So perhaps the Welsh crackdown began as a campaign to boost the speed awareness tourism economy. Probably misguided: we all felt much less warmly about Wales after the course.
The essential tactic for filling the time is to turn every piece of information into a question or series of questions. Instead of informing us, for example, that motorcyclists make up 1% of road users and 28% of fatalities, our educators first asked how many motorcyclists we had seen on the way to the course, and gave us plenty of time to retrace our journeys and think about this, before asking us to estimate what proportion of road users are motorcyclists. Having considered that at some length, it was eventually time for us to consider fatalities. And then speculate as to the reason for the extra riskiness of motor cycling. This was so obvious no one bothered to answer, which took ages.
Later on we had to make group guesses about things like what proportion of accidents and fatalities take place in an urban/rural/motorway context. The table next door to mine voted for 80% motorway, 10% rural and 10% urban. At least they could add to 100.
We had two presenters: a businesslike woman who got on with it, in so far as that was possible; and a Thames Valley traffic cop (retd.) who fancied himself as a comedian. Most of us had signed up, obviously, for the speed awareness centre closest to home, without thinking that perhaps a centre a little further away might be staffed by someone less irritating. I would willingly have driven the extra mile – at an appropriate speed, naturally – to avoid the Chieveley Hilton bore.
I wonder if Tripadvisor would be receptive to feedback about speed awareness courses so that we consumers could read the reviews and make an informed choice. The publicity might be a spur to improved performance.
Last interesting titbit. Insurers are likely to extend the period for which they can charge extra for penalty points from five years to seven. Question: “And why do you think they would do that?”