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I Attended a Speed Awareness Course: A Case Study

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 20 Mar 2012 | comments*Discuss
Traffic Speed Awareness Course Speed Red

A year or so ago, I was caught in a traffic jam on the way to a friend's wedding. Cursing my bad luck, I cruised though the traffic lights just as they turned to red. As my luck would have it, these lights were monitored by a camera, which flashed me as I crossed the white line, just to sit in the middle of the road, which was blocked on both sides by the traffic stuck in the jam.

Getting the Ticket

A week or so later, the dreaded letter dropped onto my doormat. I had been flashed going through a red light but I was to be allowed the option to go on a Speed Awareness course, Reading on, it told me that I would need to pay £60 to take the course - the same price as the fine I would pay if I didn't attend, but I would be spared the penalty of having 3 points on my licence. This seemed like a pretty good deal to me, so I sent the forms back, booked the relevant morning off work and on the day, drove along to the hotel where the course was being held.

First Impressions

Several people were already there and we all quietly eyed each other up. I'm not really sure what I thought I would find there but it was probably quite a stereotype of boy and girl racers - all tracksuits and attitude, but in actual fact, it was a very diverse group of people: young; old; male; female, well turned out and eloquent - Just normal people.

Once the introductions got started, we discovered that amongst us there was a van driver, a paramedic (caught out when not on duty), a checkout girl, a gardener, a photographer, a teacher and a retired office manager. A diverse group of people with one thing in common: we'd all broken the law.

The Course

The course started off with a presentation about the Highway Code and some of its most salient points regarding speed, traffic lights and road markings. We were each asked to explain why it was that we went through the red light. The reasons ranged from simply being in a rush, not noticing the lights changing and thinking that we could make it before they changed right through to a lady who had driven through because a gang of kids were throwing rocks at her car as she waited for the lights to change. Unfortunately there was no evidence to support her claim, so she was still charged.

Approaching Traffic Lights

We were told that most people speed up when they approach a set of traffic lights that are on green, thinking that if they do so, they are more likely to get through it. According to the course leader, that is the most common reason that people end up with a fine and three points on their licence. We were taught that when approaching a set of lights, the safest course of action is to slow down and only speed up again when you are sure that you can get through them before they change to red. It's common sense really, but how many of us ignore it?

Hazard Perception tests

Moving on from the Highway Code, we were next taken through Hazard Perception. A series of photographs was put up on the projector and we were asked to write down all the potential hazards that you could see. After we'd finished looking at the photographs, we went back through each one and the course leader asked us to share our answers. All of us got some of the answers, but none of us got all of them. There were some things that you just didn't connect with being a danger such as a box at the side of the road, however a couple of seconds changed all of that as the box was blown out onto the road and someone ran after it, right in front of the car. It was an interesting exercise, mostly because it made you realise just how quickly things can change - and if you're unlucky enough to be involved in an accident, they can of course change forever.

The Difference a Few Miles per Hour Can Make

After a quick break we went back to discuss the importance of speed, and how just a few miles per hour can really make a difference. We were shown some upsetting photographs of a young boy who was hit by a car and killed. We saw some crash test dummies shown in a crash scenario, which really hit home the fact that the young boy had no chance at all with a car going at 42mph. Had the car been travelling at the limit of 30mph or below, the dummy showed us that the impact would have been far less severe and there was a good chance that they boy would have lived, and possibly even escaped serious injury. It seems to be something that we all know, but somehow manage to set aside in our minds when we want to get somewhere in a hurry.

Finishing Off

To finish off the course we were all given a question paper which we filled in using the information we'd learned on the course that day. Once we'd finished, we handed our papers in and went through the answers with the course leader. All of us present reached the 75% passmark required and were given a certificate to prove that we had completed the course.

So Was the Awareness Course Worth it?

All in all, I felt that the Speed Awareness Course did have a lasting impact on me. I didn't expect much from it and if I'm honest, I only accepted the offer so that I didn't have to take the 3 penalty points on my licence. I didn't think the course could tell me anything I didn't already know, and I didn't expect to take away anything important. However I did. Driving home that day I was far more aware of the importance of reading the road well, checking out for hazards I wouldn't have known to look for before, and most importantly, keeping my speed down because I now knew what a difference a couple of miles an hour can make. I would suggest that anyone offered a place on a Speed Awareness Course would do well to accept it and go along to the venue with an open mind. You never know, like me, you might just learn something!

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