I like to think I’m a reasonably accomplished driver, I'm a bloke after all. I was therefore dismayed to receive an official looking letter through the post recently, from Surrey Police. The general flavour of which was that I had ‘contravened the 1861 Speed Act’ or whatever it was, and unless I paid a fine and polished the chief inspector’s shoes for the next month, I’d be sent to a penal colony in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
They don’t hold back with those letters do they – they like to stick it to you. My crime was that I’d been flashed by a speed camera doing 35mph in a 30mph zone. From the tone of the letter however, anyone would have thought I’d made off with the crown jewels and was in for nothing short of a public hanging. After I recovered from the mild stroke this shock gave me, I noticed at the bottom of the letter they were offering me a ‘get out of jail free card’.
‘HOWEVER’...it said, if you agree to attend one of our speed awareness courses which incidentally will cost you slightly more than the fine, we’ll let you off the three points on your licence. Ok. For an extra £10, I get to keep my driving licence as clean as a whistle. Sounds good; I’m in.
I imagined the course would consist of us ‘crims’ being shown videos of nasty traffic accidents and that I’d probably be the only one there, old enough to grow a proper beard. Mercifully it was nothing like that.
On arriving, I was immediately surprised to find the other people attending the course were mostly, how can I put it...septuagenarians. There were so many silver tops in there I thought I’d arrived at an old fashioned dairy. Most of them looked like sweet little old ladies and harmless dignified gents. Not quite the hardened criminal underworld I was expecting. Like me, most of them had been flashed doing 35mph in a 30mph zone.
The course was run by ex-police officers and it was excellent. I learnt so much I can’t praise it highly enough. I was never a fast driver but the pace of modern life sometimes influences your driving. Inevitably you’re late for something and the speed creeps up. We all do it. Seeing as the majority of traffic accidents occur in 30mph zones, probably by otherwise law abiding citizens, I can see why they gave me the option of attending the course. It has transformed the way I drive.
There were no ghoulish videos for us to watch, just sound common sense advice about how to break the bad driving habits we all pick up. If you ever receive ‘the letter’ and there’s an option to attend the course, do it. I think every-one should as soon as they pass their test, not just those that have been caught speeding. If we were better educated we might not get into bad habits in the first place.