There were 2.4 million speeding tickets issued in England and Wales between 2018/19. Yet, 1.29 million people avoided the harshest penalty (a fine and 3 points on their licence).
Well, they completed a speed awareness course instead!
In an effort to tackle the problem of speeding more effectively, many police forces now offer another option for minor offences. But what is a speed awareness course? How much does it cost and are you eligible?
And, most importantly, is it worth doing one? Or should you still take the fine and resolve to do better next time?
We’re going to answer all these questions and plenty more besides, including what you should expect from a speed awareness course. So, let’s begin with the basics!
Want to avoid those lapses in concentration which lead to breaking the speed limit? Check out our long distance driving tips to help stay alert at the wheel!
What is a Speed Awareness Course?
Essentially, it’s a super-sized driving theory lesson. The main aims of a speed awareness course are to change your attitude towards speeding and make you a safer driver.
The theory test wasn’t introduced until 1996. Topics include the Highway Code, braking distances, road signs and a whole host of best practices that some drivers may not be aware of. A speed awareness course aims to improve your knowledge in these areas.
It may sound like you’re going back to school, but there’s no test at the end or strict classroom discipline. An instructor will guide you through discussion topics, encouraging you to react to situations honestly. Then, they’ll talk abut how you can improve your responses with some actionable tips. The main providers (DriveTech, UKROEd and the TTC Group) all stress that you’re entering into a non-patronising discussion. What’s more, there are locations across the country and it’s easy to find your closest centre when you book. Under the current circumstances, some speed awareness courses are also offered online.
But does a speed awareness course play out exactly like they describe?
What should I expect from a Speed Awareness Course?
We spoke to a first-hand source about a speed awareness course. They’ve been on two, so know exactly what you should expect from the process.
The course focuses on role-play scenarios which help begin conversations about your driving style and how you can improve. Discussion topics can include personal experiences (why you’re on the course) and pointing out hazards shown on a dashcam journey. There’s a heavy focus on speeding in 30mph zones – but that doesn’t mean you don’t discuss motorways as well.
There are some graphic images of high-speed crashes included in the discussions. These images can be quite sobering, but highlight the main purpose of the course: to encourage you to stick to the speed limit. If the instructor doesn’t think that you have made progress towards becoming a better and safer driver by the end of the course, they can refer your case back to the police. If this happens, you may have to take the penalty points or face a court summons as well.
You can’t sit at the back of the classroom sulking or argue with the instructor. You’re there for a reason. Our sources’ advice was “sit down, do as you’re told, get it done and move on.” It might not be fun, especially if your instructor isn’t as non-patronising as the course websites suggest, but you can’t argue about it.
Besides, you might annoy the other 20-30 people in your class as well!
By the end of the course, you should be able to show improvement in your knowledge of the following areas:
- The consequences of speeding
- Personal responsibility on the roads
- The impact of your behaviour on others
- Knowledge and skills surrounding the Highway Code
You should also have a few next steps to avoid repeat offending and become a better driver.
Eligibility criteria and what you should bring along
A speed awareness course doesn’t actually sound that bad, does it?
However, you don’t have an automatic right to one when you’re caught speeding. Not every police force offers the course and it only covers basic traffic offences. As the table below shows, you have to fit in a very specific bracket to be offered a speed awareness course.
|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||
What’s more, you can only attend one speed awareness course every three years!
Your notice of intended prosecution (the official police charge) will tell you if you’re eligible or not. Fill out the form and return it within the allocated time limit to inform the police that you plan to attend a course.
You then need to book your appointment. DriveTech, UKROEd and the TTC Group all offer an online booking system, which is easy to follow. Your notice of intended prosecution also includes all these details.
On the day, you need to bring physical photo ID to prove your identity. If you don’t have this (i.e. you don’t have one of the new style driving licences) then you need to provide 2 forms of ID. If you don’t turn up with ID, or you arrive late, you face exclusion from the course. The centre will also refer your case back to the police. Give yourself plenty of time to find the centre and to allow for traffic jams. Like we said, there’s no formal exam, but you still need to stay until the end of the course to avoid any other consequences. If you leave early, you may have to pay the fine and take the points as well.
If you’re offered an online course, you need a fully-charged laptop, phone or tablet with a webcam/camera and access to good quality internet. You’ll sign in to a virtual waiting room, confirm your identity with the trainer and then enter an online classroom for an interactive lesson. It’s like a face-to-face speed awareness course, but with a much smaller group. There are fewer places to hide when there are only 8 of you, so engagement is even more important!
How much does a Speed Awareness Course cost?
Unfortunately, it’s not free. A speed awareness course costs about £100 (but each force sets their own price and some allow you to pay flexibly).
But isn’t this the same price as the fine? So, why bother?
Well, as GoCompare explains, the fine isn’t a fixed amount. It’s tied to your weekly income instead. For speeding offences covered by a speed awareness course, it’s 25-75% of your weekly income.
A speed awareness course may be more expensive than the actual fine, so you might decide that it’s not worth it. However, don’t forget about the penalty points as well. Any speeding offence adds 3 penalty points to your licence. If these take you up to 12 penalty points, you face disqualification. It’s even worse if you’ve been driving less than 2 years – you can only have a maximum of 6 before disqualification!
If you’re not sure if a speed awareness course is right for you, we offer our top three reasons for doing one later on. Although it is voluntary, attendance offers you some great benefits.
How long does a Speed Awareness Course take?
A face to face session takes between 4/5 hours with a break for lunch in the middle. They don’t provide food, so you’ll need to bring a packed lunch or dinner if you want to eat during the break. Courses are available during the day, evenings and at weekends.
An online course is a little shorter and takes about 2 1/2 hours from start to end including a 10 minute break. It’s worth noting that online speed awareness courses are only happening because of the Coronavirus pandemic, so you might not be offered one.
What happens to my insurance and licence?
If the instructor is happy with your progress, your licence remains unaffected after the course.
Your insurer may raise your premium, but they might raise it more if you have points on your licence. A speed awareness course isn’t a criminal conviction so your insurer might not ask about it. However, you need to tell them the truth if they do ask. Any lies could invalidate your policy if you need to make a claim.
The only time you may have to declare that you’ve been on a speed awareness course is when you change providers. Some price comparison sites ask if you’ve been on a course when finding you quotes. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, especially as well over a million other people are in the same situation as you.
That’s everything you should know about a speed awareness course but there’s one more question to ask: is it really better than the points and the fine?
Is it worth it?
If you’re offered a speed awareness course, we recommend accepting the offer for three main reasons.
Firstly, you avoid unnecessary points on your licence. Speeding can happen accidentally, especially if you’re only over the limit by a little bit. You should always remain alert and focused at the wheel, but lapses happen all the time. If your record is otherwise flawless, you don’t want a stain of any sort. A speed awareness course also keeps your insurance premiums as low as possible, saving you a bit of money!
Brush up on the best ways to stay alert behind the wheel on a long journey here!
It also gives you the opportunity to refresh your driving theory. If you never took the theory test, or it’s been a while since you did, you may have forgotten some, or all, of it. A speed awareness course will improve your knowledge so you don’t get caught out in the future.
Finally, it allows you to become a better driver. A speed awareness course will help open your eyes to the dangers of speeding and, hopefully, change your views on excess speed. Always go in with an open mind and be ready to learn something!
It’s always worth considering a speed awareness course if you’re caught speeding. It’s a completely voluntary option, but we recommend accepting the offer whenever available. Here’s what you should remember:
- You must participate in the discussion and stay to the end of the course to pass
- If the instructor is happy with your progress, you don’t need to pay a fine or receive any points on your licence
- Not every police force offers a speed awareness course and there is strict eligibility criteria
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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.