I attend a Speed Awareness Course

On Friday October 23rd it was my privilege to attend a Speed Awareness Course, run by Leicestershire County Council at Syston.  Yes.  I admit it. Hands up.  I was done for 36 mph in a 30 limit, on the Welford Road, on a three-lane dual carriageway, with barriers, and no pedestrians about.
Asked to explain why I was driving at that speed, I replied “Because I judged it was a safe and reasonable speed in the circumstances”, and I hold to that view.  I have been driving for nearly 50 years.  I have driven probably a million miles in that time.  Apart from a few minor bumps, I have never (touch wood) had a significant accident.  In a lifetime of driving, I have been done for speeding only three times (once in Singapore).
There were twenty-one victims in the audience, and they represented a cross-section of society.  Young and old. Nine women.  Three ethnic minorities.  And they all struck me as perfectly reasonable, responsible citizens.  One was a grandmother who had been taking her grandson to rugby practice.  Another an elderly gentleman who had been taking an elderly lady to the station to catch a train.  So far as I could judge, no lager louts, no tear-aways, no alcoholics, no joy-riders.  Just safe, steady, reliable citizens.  I suspect that most of them also thought that the speeds for which they were summonsed were reasonable in the circumstances.
Someone asked why speed limits could not be varied according to time of day, and the answer (quite reasonably) was that this would be too expensive (and perhaps too confusing).  But it would be nice if the prosecuting authorities could exercise some discretion, and recognise that driving past a school at three in the afternoon is a rather different thing from driving past at three in the morning.  Arbitrary and indiscriminate speed limits, coupled with cameras, are persecuting responsible drivers unfairly and squeezing the joy out of motoring.
Knowing that the course organisers could still apply points to the licence of any victim who “failed to cooperate”, I had taken a self-denying ordinance, determined to plead the Fifth Amendment rather than give replies that might incriminate me.  In fact the event was relaxed and non-confrontational, but I stuck to my determination to avoid making trouble.  Until, that was, they were inviting suggestions for the fact that most accidents take place on urban roads, rather than on rural roads or motorways.  As several participants suggested “More congestion” or “more traffic”, I could not resist adding the suggestion: “more speed limits”.
But the real problem, both with speed cameras and with Speed Awareness Courses, is that they focus on one factor, speed, and ignore everything else.  The instructor admitted that human error was a factor in 95% of accidents.  Of course if speed were zero — if we never drove at all — presumably we could eliminate road accidents entirely.  Yet speed is only the primary factor in a small minority of accidents.
There was little or no mention of inexperienced and inconsiderate driving; of competitive and aggressive driving; of lane-changing and tail-gating; of vehicle condition or road and weather conditions; or of drink and drugs.  The powers that be love to focus on speed because (A) it is easy to measure; and (B) it is a nice little earner.  But in doing so, they distort our approach to road safety and do us all a disservice.  Thank heaven that it is Conservative policy to stop the proliferation of speed cameras.

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3 Responses to I attend a Speed Awareness Course

  1. Grant Perkins says:

    My sympathies for the need to attend the course but on a positive note to have done so ‘for real’ provides useful first hand experience.

    A few years ago I spent a lot of time with 13 years worth of the ‘official’ accident statistic base data (or at least the released version of the base data) and decided it was almost impossible to make any useful decisions from it or see any worthwhile trends for action other than, perhaps, re-engineering some black spots properly. That’s not to say the trends are not potentially to be found, though I suspect that traffic, being a chaotic system, is unlikely to present a single trend that could be addressed across the country and the driver base. Part of the problem was that the data are unlikely to be consistent enough in assessment to be useful in analysis. This may be deliberate policy of course.

    For example, you mentioned schools at 3pm. Seems logical. But if you look at the data, from memory, they tell us there is little or no difference to the pattern of the rate of accidents involving ‘children’ other than seasonal factors through a year. The time of day spreads in the holidays but in any case the observable peaks are around 8 to 9 am and 5 and 6 PM. Not 3 pm. I would bet the incidents unconnected with transport to and from school rarely occur near schools, or at least not the school the child attends. The majority of incidents involving vehicles and children as pedestrians are ‘senior’ school ages – 11 and upwards to 16 (16 being the change age from ‘school child’ as far as the accident data were concerned.) The bulge for young people as pedestrians being involved in accidents continues to around age 26 or so and tends to shift towards late night and very early morning with increasing age – for reasons one can only guess at …

    It’s good to find someone in politics, especially a local someone, who seems to have many, maybe all, of the same concerns I have. Thanks for that.

    My only concern about the Conservative stand on speed cameras is that all the references were to ‘fixed’ cameras whereas the greater abuse seems to relate to mobile units. I hope that is not a play on words to enable some wriggle factor later.


    Grant Perkins

  2. Speed awareness courses can be very beneficial. However I have to say that 50 yrs of driving and no real accidents to speak of, surely common sense says that your capable of judging when it’s safe to do 36 in a 30 zone and when you need to drive at 15 in a 30 zone. What ever happened to common sense 🙂

    • Grant Perkins says:

      driving lessons newbury:

      Common Sense?

      Not allowed these days is it?

      There were reports a few years ago about Police in Notts being happy to NIP people for 32 in a 30 with mobile cameras. Now that IS taking the Micky, especially given the margin for error on the measurement system.

      Your 15 in a 30 comment is spot on too, especially given the state of road surfaces these days.

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