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Speed Awareness Course – good. Speed cameras – bad.

The speed awareness course I attended in Tunbridge Wells today was actually very enjoyable. There, I’ve said it.

I don’t agree with how I was forced to go but this is exactly the sort of thing that should be mandatory for all drivers every 5 or 10 years or so. And there’s the rub – training is good in pretty much every circumstance, as is the opportunity to think and analyse your actions or attitude. I learnt very little I didn’t know already but there were clearly people there to whom some facts were a complete surprise.

Disappointingly, at the beginning, there was very much the implication that to speed is to cause accidents. I had the opportunity to point out that drivers going too slowly are, according to studies, more likely to be in a collision than those going “fast” and that speed cameras are proven not to have reduced accident rates since their introduction (and in fact caused a slowing in the rate of traffic safety improvements when they were introduced). It became clear that the intention was to point out what would happen if you were in a collision at excess speeds, especially outside limits deliberately set for roads. Speed makes collisions worse – the government’s own statistics prove it is rarely the main cause of them.

My favourite bit was during one of the exercises where we had to assess all the potential dangers in a photo of a road ahead and I pointed out that the speed camera had caused my attention to divert to my speedo to make sure I was within the speed limit, causing me to miss the child emerging from behind a parked car.

The fact is drivers shouldn’t be attending these courses because they inadvertently get caught by a camera – instead positive rather than punitive steps should be taken to educate ALL drivers about the implications of their actions on the roads and to introduce them to more advanced observational skills. Especially in this congested little island of ours.

This course should rightly be called a “driving awareness course” since there was a great deal of coverage of observational habits, reading the road, hazard detection etc. And it should be mandatory for new drivers and periodically for existing ones. If you get the opportunity to go on one I would recommend it. Sadly that might only come about when you receive a NIP.

So my t-shirt remains relevant.