Blog : Driving – teaching old dogs new tricks

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

Talivan

‘My name is Keith Adams, and I am a speeder.’

Seems like a foolish thing to say online, but I guess I should qualify that before I get inundated by complaints from readers accusing me of reckless endangerment. The truth is I was caught, and I’ve paid the price – in my case, a four-hour Speed Awareness Course.

It was New Year’s Eve, and I was driving back home from a few days’ break in Cumbria. I was driving along a quiet dualled section of the A66, not too far from Scotch Corner, on a sunny, cold afternoon. Like everyone around me, I was settled in a relaxed 85mph cruise in my quiet, cossetting and rather wonderful Citroen C6, thinking about the evening’s plans, contemplating whether traffic would scupper my intentions to get home at a reasonable hour.

I was concentrating on the road ahead, but not enough, clearly – and I spotted the white speed camera van in the lay-by just a little bit too late. Shucks… Unsurprisingly, a few days later, the Notice of Intended Prosecution arrived on my doorstep. I’d been clocked at 82mph on a 70mph stretch. Bang to rights, guv.

Like everyone offered one of these courses, I took it gratefully. Three points on my licence is far less desirable than spending four hours in a Peterborough classroom. Anyway, in reality, I had never resented being papped by the ‘van – it’s my first time caught speeding in the UK since 1998 – and it’s certainly not the first time I’ve been known to speed.

Needless to say, the course was very interesting indeed and, contrary to what you might expect, it wasn’t at all patronising. The AA was responsible for delivering the course content and, along the way, we were shown a very interesting video, which went on to say that stopping distance isn’t the major factor you should take into account, but the effect additional speed has on your potential impact… OK, that’s a little contrived, but it’s certainly an effective way of getting people to consider their speed and the result of even ‘marginal speeding’.

What was also highly interesting was the sheer lack of knowledge of our rules and regulations that a number of the people on the course had. Basic understanding of speed limits seemed missing in many people, as did an understanding of the hazards posed in daily driving. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a basic course, but all of the drivers on it were at an age and experience level that should see them through a day’s driving and know (pretty much) what the speed limit is in any given place and situation.

I certainly found the course to be exceptionally useful, and a great refresher in many ways – given what I do for a living, that’s never a bad thing. But what I’ve taken away from this is that I shouldn’t ever be complacent when driving, continue to be ever vigilant and expect the unexpected. Fingers crossed, it will allow me to maintain my clean (since 1998) driving licence.

It also backs up my opinion that there should be compulsory driving re-tests (or, at least, refreshers) for all drivers at least every ten years. Anyone who argues against regular driving checks clearly doesn’t spent enough time on the UK’s roads. Come one, who’s with me in getting this on the driving agenda?

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

13 Comments

  1. I am not sure quite how a compulsory re-test would cure behaviour which was not the result of inattention , but of quite deliberate flouting of rules . People gear their behaviour to test conditions, and in that respect, a test achieves nothing. Quite how any testing body would cope with say 3 million tests a year ( at a 10 year rate ) is very hard to envisage . However, it does seem to me that there is something to be said for refresher courses from time to time , although again the logistical difficulties would probably be impossible to overcome . I have found that my car with a speed limiter is a great help ( although still there is the problem of actually ascertaining what the speed limit is , with many local authorities being very neglectful of putting 40 mph signs on lamp standards where a lighted 40 limit applies ) but I would be reluctant to be without the limiter

  2. Driver CPC’s could be the answer just like I have to do every five years to keep my HGV & PSV licences in order. 35 hours training every five years in 5 courses lasting 7 hours each.

    Good point about excessive speed and potential impact.

    As a world wise weather worn Durham Constabulary traffic Sgt once glibly said to me…

    “no-one ever died from going too fast… its the quick and fatal coming to a standstill that gets you”

  3. The speed awareness course is boring and laborious and could be so much better. It also proved to be irritating as I was caught doing 80 on a dual carriageway in dry conditions – and I was only overtaking a inside vehicle and dropped down to 70 once I got pass them. Other people on the course included a women doing 50 in a 30 zone and a gentleman doing 110 on a motorway!
    The only thing that I would say is that Mike’s CPC would be a good idea, as the course proved how many people didn’t know changes to the Highway Code, and also health checks – especially eyesight as I know of several people who have a license, drive but cant see properly!

  4. OK the speed was illegal, but not in a particularly dangerous location. One has to ask why clock people here. The answer, of course, is that the camera partnerships rely on income from Speed Awareness Courses to keep themselves in business. So sights that generate lots of tickets, (like the A66 dual-carriageway), rather than places where excessive speed is really dangerous, but there aren’t many people exceeding the limit, (most people do drive reasonably carefully), are ignored. It’s all about income, basically.

    However, I do agree than some sort of test would be useful every 10-15 years, but not a pass/fail test, rather an assessment test, with a report on bad habits. Those found to be rather poor drivers would have to take another test in a year. After a while, the expense of this would tend to make the defaulters fall in line.

  5. OK the speed was illegal, but not in a particularly dangerous location. One has to ask why clock people here. The answer, of course, is that the camera partnerships rely on income from Speed Awareness Courses to keep themselves in business. So sites that generate lots of tickets, (like the A66 dual-carriageway), rather than places where excessive speed is really dangerous, but there aren’t many people exceeding the limit, (most people do drive reasonably carefully), are ignored. It’s all about income, basically.

    However, I do agree than some sort of test would be useful every 10-15 years, but not a pass/fail test, rather an assessment test, with a report on bad habits. Those found to be rather poor drivers would have to take another test in a year. After a while, the expense of this would tend to make the defaulters fall in line.

  6. I too have been on a speed awareness course and I was also surprised by the sheer number of people who didn’t know the speed limit on a dual carriageway, or how fast lorries were limited to, or what the speed limit in an unmarked streetlit area was.

    I like the idea of a re-test every 10 years or so (although as someone who likes the idea of living free in the country away from any visible state authority I’m conflicted). Money for it would always be the issue.

    At the risk of giving insurance companies another excuse to hike up premiums, why not roll it into that. Make in non-compulsory and charge for the test, but if you don’t have a certificate (valid for 10 years) your insurance company is notified and increases your premium.

    It wouldn’t do anything to stop people who flagrantly disregard the law, but there’s enough people out there who just have no clue that it might genuinely improve road safety.

  7. One of my colleagues was recently pulled fr doing 38 in a 30 zone. He had missed the change in speed limit from 40 to 30 and was keeping to the 40 limit. I have been in a car with him on several occasions and can warrant that he is a careful driver.

    He described the course he attended at extremely patronising in the extreme and obviously designed to maximise the income of the presenting company. Of the day, his comment was that the only 2 things he learned were 1/ what a load of bad drivers were out there and 2/ what a bunch of sanctimonious [expletive deleted] the presenters were.

    You may disagree but he recorded some of the course on his phone (audio only) and it was a revelation to us.

    PS, I drive on average 22,000 miles per year, all over the country, and have averaged this since 1982 without receiving any tickets to date (at the risk of tempting fate).

  8. I’m one of the few drivers who obeys the speed limit, so I spend most of my time getting overtaken, but I am getting increasingly disillusioned with the absurd speed limts being imposed on some of our roads.

    The worst example is a country road that use to be national speed limit, which has now been reduced to a 30 zone. No houses, fields either side, it is utterly ridiculous, but seems to be the way things are going.

  9. Well said Bartelbe. I try and stick to speed limits but you are right about some of the ridiculous limits that are now imposed. My 25 mile commute takes me through a mixture of A road, villages and then urban areas. The biggest frustration is on the A road in the 60 zone where people pootle along at 40. I have seen so many near misses (as there are limited places to over take) that have built up due to frustration.

    I live in Bedfordshire where you cannot break wind without being spotted by either a fixed or mobile camera. Motorcyclists use the nearby bypass as their own personal race track as all the cameras are forward facing and the bikes do not have front number plates so they can go at whatever speed they feel like.

    Whilst I do not agree with compulsory retesting I think Mike’s point about CPC is valid.

  10. Johnny where do live in Bedfordshire? Is it near the A6?
    Hard luck Keith.
    On Monday while walking to work along a residential road I witnessed woman driving a Peugeot Partner (mobility scooter not included) whilst on the phone.
    Immediately afterwards I saw a Vauxhall Vectra perform some late braking at a junction whilst the driver was drinking from one of those thermos mugs with their right hand.
    I am convinced some of the most reckless driving occurs on the school run. Badly organised parents leave everything until the last moment and then try and compensate by reckless driving.
    Recently the police set up a speed trap outside a primary school near me here in Norfolk. Who did they catch? Answer: parents.
    It seems that regulations designed to protect children walking to school are being broken by parents, quite a paradox.
    Again commiserations to Keith.

    • Just outside Leighton Buzzard Ian. Motorcyclists love to use the bypass as their weekend race track – I can hear the bikes accelerating from my house on clear days.

    • Makes sense, after all parental logic is to buy a huge SUV to cocoon their own brood, while the same vehicle is hugely dangerous should it encounter a child – a Land Cruiser grille and engine are about head height of a youngster.

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