The dreaded flash from a speed camera leaves a sinking feeling like no other. They’re everywhere nowadays and a momentary lapse in concentration can leave us staring down the barrel of 3 licence points and a £100 fine for minor offences and a court summons for more flagrant breaches of the law.
Yet, 1.29 million people avoided these penalties and chose a third option in 2019: a speed awareness course.
There’s no need to assume you’ll automatically pay a fine anymore. The remedial option is becoming more and more popular as police try to tackle the problem of speeding differently.
So, here’s everything you need to know about a speed awareness course. If you’re already booked onto one, it’s worth reading all the way to the end for some vital first-hand experience to prepare yourself. You’ll be glad you did once you realise there are some things you can only find out from going on a speed awareness course…
What is a speed awareness course?
A speed awareness course is a re-educational program designed to change attitudes towards speeding and provide a refresher on safe driving practices. It covers most low-level traffic offences and it’s a remedial alternative to the points and fine in order to avoid repeat offending.
Essentially, it’s a supersized theory lesson. Considering the theory test was only introduced in 1996, there are many drivers on the road who might not be completely clued up on the Highway Code and a speed awareness course should be seen as an opportunity to improve yourself as a driver.
They’re a few hours long and available during the day, the evening or at weekends. We’ll go into this in more detail later, but it’s safe to say it feels a little bit like going back to school. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you…
How do I book and what do I need to bring?
When you’re sent your notice of intended prosecution (the official charge levelled at you by the police), you need to accept the offer of a speed awareness course and then return the form within the allocated time limit.
The letter gives you all the details you need about which organisations offer speed awareness courses near you and how to book online. You’ll then receive a confirmation email with the details of where and when your course is. The course costs about £100 (roughly the same as the fine) but each police force sets their own price, and some allow you to pay the cost flexibly.
There isn’t much you need to bring with you. All you need to be able to do is prove you are who you say you are, so photo ID is a must. Turn up fifteen minutes before the start of your course so you’re there for the duration. You need to complete the entire course to avoid further action from the police.
What happens during a speed awareness course?
A speed awareness course is basically a non-patronising discussion about your driving habits and ways you can improve your driving style.
A variety of media is used to re-educate you on topics including:
- The consequences of speeding,
- Personal responsibility on the roads
- The impact of your behaviour on others
- Knowledge and skills surrounding the Highway Code
You’re also given opportunities to talk about why you’re on the course and what steps you plan on taking in future to avoid repeat offending.
When am I eligible for a one?
Not everyone can attend a speed awareness course. It’s not an automatic right.
You won’t be eligible if:
- you’re going more than 10% + 9 mph over the speed limit. Speed is remedial for minor offences – twenty miles an hour over the limit is a lot more severe.
- it’s your second speeding offence in the last three years.
- you’ve already been on a speed awareness course in the last three years.
|35 mph||42 mph|
|40 mph||46 mph||53 mph|
|50 mph||57 mph||64 mph|
|60 mph||68 mph||75 mph|
|70 mph||79 mph||
So, if you get the option to complete a the course, it’s best to take it, listen to the advice and act on it.
Otherwise, your heavy right foot could become very costly.
Do I need to tell my insurer if I go on a speed awareness course?
Taking a speed awareness course doesn’t count as a criminal conviction, so your insurance premium might not even be affected. Most insurance companies don’t ask if you’ve been on a speed awareness course recently, so you don’t automatically have to declare it – just make sure that you tell them if they do ask!
Lying is the worst thing you can do as your policy could be invalidated when you try to make a claim if you’ve provided false information when purchasing cover.
Additional criteria to be aware of
Alongside a strict eligibility criterion, there are a few other things to bear in mind when you see the dreaded camera flash.
Not every police force offers a speed awareness course. If you live in a constabulary intent on driving down speeding rates, you might be treated quite harshly. It all depends on the policing policies where you live and, if you’re not sure whether it’s available to you, don’t run that risk!
The guidelines for speeding offences covered by a speed awareness course are limited and rigid. If you’re caught between 10% + 2 and 10% +9 mph over the limit, you might be offered one. That’s the only range it’s offered to. As we said earlier, any more than the upper limit and you’re likely to go straight to court. That translates to between 35 and 42 in a 30-mph zone.
You won’t have an end of course test or anything, so there’s no failure on a speed awareness course – but you can’t just sit in sullen silence either! The idea is to contribute positively and show a willingness to change your attitude towards speeding. If the instructors don’t feel like you’ve done that, you might end up paying the speeding fine and taking the three points anyway. You’re unlikely to recoup the cost of the course as well.
Should I be ashamed to tell people about it?
You shouldn’t. A speed awareness course can be quite a helpful reminder of the rules of the road and the specifics of the Highway Code. Unless you brag a lot about the quality of your driving and how safe you are, don’t worry about telling people you’ve been on a speed awareness course.
First-hand experience of a speed awareness course
Generally, everything you’re told about a speed awareness course is more or less what you should expect. However, there is one significant difference.
Well, that focus on re-education is correct. The non-patronising aspect depends on your instructor. Some can come across as patronising and pushy, stressing the fact that the reason you’re there is because you’ve committed a criminal offence.
Just bear that in mind.
The course itself focuses on a lot of role-play and scenarios. Situations are described and you’re encouraged to discuss what you think will happen next. This is interspersed with graphic images from fatal crashes and a dashcam journey where you have to point out all the hazards shown.
Despite the fact there’s a significant focus on speeding in 30 mph areas rather than on the motorway, the images can be quite sobering deterrents from speeding. Which is what makes a speed awareness course so effective.
Finally, one top tip from our source: ‘sit down, do as you’re told, get it done and move on. Arguing only makes it last longer’. You don’t get anywhere on a speed awareness course by protesting or arguing a point with the instructor. The course is for everyone’s safety.
Besides, the twenty or thirty other people in your class might take offence to you contesting every point. They just want to get it done as well.
All in all, you should now be prepared for your speed awareness course. It’s a great initiative and you can get a lot out of it. But, as always, sticking to the speed limit is best. It’s there for a reason.
Did this help you prepare for your speed awareness course? Has the course changed at all or is there anything we’ve missed that you think others should know? Drop us a comment with your experiences!
Mandy is an ex-mechanic, with 22 years’ experience in the motor industry. As an in-house motoring expert, Mandy is the go-to woman for any relevant questions that our customers have; both garages and drivers. From specific problems with your car to general maintenance, Mandy is a reliable source of information and advice. Her passion for motoring is a huge factor to her success and the huge wealth of knowledge that she has. She now uses her remarkable grasp of the industry to write regular content for our readers to help drivers understand their car better, avoid being ripped off by garages and save money on their motoring requirements.