When I passed my driving test, back in the late 1980’s, I was a truly terrible driver - writing off one car, and seriously damaging another. I'm now not so bad. I concentrate on driving when I'm behind the wheel, I'm quite considerate, I use the lanes on motorways properly, I don't tailgate... But I will admit that I'm not a good driver. Because I drive too fast.
On a number of occasions over the past 24 years I probably should have been stopped for my driving - and probably would have lost my license if I had been, but I never have actually been stopped - you know - by a traffic officer, for doing anything wrong. Three times I've had the dreaded letter through the door - the 'Notice of Intended Prosecution'. The first was about 8 years ago, in the days when camera sites were still a bit sneaky - I accelerated through a level crossing just after the lights started flashing, and got another sort of flash from the camera on the back of the crossing. Three points.
About six months after those points expired I got three more for just about the most boring reason possible. 58 in a 50, through motorway road-works on the M20. I didn't resent the points although I don't think they were deserved - but I just put up with them on the grounds that they were really for some other misdemeanour that I didn't get caught for.
That was back in 2006, the points expired in 2009 and I'd been happily driving around on a clean license for a while when... Flash...
This time I was driving on a road I know well that I was sure was a 40 limit, but actually turns out to be a 30. Camera said 38. But what was different this time was that I was offered a 'Speed Awareness Course' for £95 in lieu of three points and a £60 fine.
This seemed the obvious choice, so I opted for that. After I signed up for it and got the details, I saw the course was 4 hours. I fully expected a proper wrist slapping and a long lecture, but that’s not what you get at all. Somehow they manage to take a very serious subject and make it fun. There is no exam, no difficult questions – although I was surprised at how many people got simple questions wrong… But the whole experience was actually quite uplifting. I actually came away feeling lucky to have done the course – not just lucky that I didn’t get 3 points, but actually lucky to have been there. As Pip, our excellent instructor said – 85%* of people who are given points for speeding get more points later – 85%* of people who do the course don’t.
So how was my drive home? It was still fun, actually, and still fast – despite the fact that I didn’t break the speed limit, or do anything even remotely dangerous. The Scirocco even managed to return over 38 mpg.
Will this change my driving in the long run? Sadly, I doubt it – but I hope it does. And that’s a good start, don’t you think?
Oh, and one last thing – if you’ve been driving for more than a couple of years (or more than 20, like me) then the last copy of the Highway Code you read is probably now out of date. Get a new one, and actually read it – apparently there are all sorts of new laws you might be breaking without even knowing it.
*These figures may have been made up by me, but you get the idea.