Reformed racer – Undercover in a speed awareness course

Speed Awareness CourseNow, I’m no boy racer – never have been. My car doesn’t have racing stripes, tinted windows, or bucket seats; my number plate isn’t personalised, and if it was it certainly wouldn’t read: V FA5T. So, before I started working at RoSPA, doing a speed awareness course had never really crossed my mind.

Like most people in the UK, I’ve heard of The National Speed Awareness Scheme. Introduced in 2003 as an alternative to the traditional ‘three-points and a fine’ punishment, it is designed to re-educate so-called ‘minor speeders’ – those who have been caught slightly above the speed limit. By now almost a million of us have sat through one of these courses, and apart from the inconvenience of taking the afternoon off work, most would agree that it’s worth it when compared to the alternative.

However, when I told my friends that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) were offering a ‘pre-emptive’ speed awareness course, they couldn’t get their hats’ on. “Who in their right mind would choose to attend one of these courses without having been nicked first?” they said. Well, what better way to find out than to attend the course myself…

All shapes and sizes

As it turned out, plenty of people were interested in attending a speed awareness workshop. In fact, when I arrived at RoSPA headquarters I was met by a sold-out classroom, full of eager drivers from all walks of life. The first person I spoke to was a nineteen-year old van driver who’s company had paid for him to attend the course – although he hadn’t been caught by the police, his digital tachograph had picked up on his tendency to drive, in his words, ‘like Lewis Hamilton on speed’, a trait that his employers decided to try and curb in order to protect their insurance.

Over the course of the morning I met a dozen other people and heard a dozen different stories, from a young father who wanted to ensure his driving was as safe as possible now he had his newborn son onboard, to a retired school teacher who wanted to make sure he was staying speed awareness workshopwithin the limit. However, the one thing all attendees had in common was that they were there of their own free will – no one had threatened or forced them to be there (except perhaps our young van driver’s boss!) something our trainer, Keith, attributed to the course’s success:

‘RoSPA can’t see the logic of only educating people after they’ve committed the offence – why not work to change their habits now, before they get into trouble… or worse? People on this course are here because they want to learn, they want to get involved – they want to become safer drivers. And who can blame them? After all, their lives really do depend on it.’

Learning not lecturing

I had prepared myself for a few hours of slides, in the event however, Keith laid out the facts in a simple, straightforward manner. There was plenty of practical advice, augmented with common sense and real-life examples – with exercises and videos helping to break up the session.

Speed awarenessSurprisingly, there was a lack of horror stories and fear-mongering – although to be fair, there was no need. Not when the facts and figures speak so clearly. In 2012, 3,507 people were killed or seriously injured in crashes where speed was a factor and the risk of death is approximately four times higher when a pedestrian is hit at 40mph than at 30mph. It really is enough to make you stop and think.

At the end of the session there was an opportunity for questions and discussion, and it’s testament to the quality of the teaching that we didn’t all scramble for the door. Rather we stayed for almost another hour, sharing our experiences and listening to Keith’s advice. When I finally said goodbye to everyone and drove away (at a sensible speed, naturally) I felt that the experience had been a valuable use of time.

Real change

As the weeks passed, I was surprised to find that the techniques I’d learnt seemed to have stuck. Interestingly, I’m not just more aware of my speed, but also of other road users, pedestrians, and my general driving. I’m more confident and less stressed when out on the road, and I’ve also noticed I seem to be using less fuel – an added benefit of my reformed driving techniques.

In fact, the only downside is that it’s taken me this long – almost ten years of ‘bad’ driving – to learn theses basic lessons, that research has shown could save time, money, and possibly my life. At least now, with RoSPA’s help, I’ve learnt to manage my speed before it’s too late…

For more information about RoSPA’s Speed Awareness Workshop, please visit their website here.


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