Most police authorities now offer awareness courses as an alternative to points on your licence for certain traffic offences. The most popular courses are for drivers caught speeding, but there are also workshops for drivers jumping red traffic lights and using mobile telephones. The more serious offences which come under the umbrella of ‘driving without due care and attention’ can sometimes lead to a place on a ‘driver improvement scheme’.
The idea behind them is to help drivers challenge and change their own attitudes, to make them more aware of their own responsibility for their actions and to develop a personal safety strategy.
Workshops for drivers caught exceeding the speed limits are offered under the guidance of the National Speed Awareness Scheme. This was put in place by police forces across the UK to allow motorists caught speeding to have the chance of completing a workshop rather than be issued with three penalty points and a £60 fine.
The workshops are not delivered by the police but by an officially recognised training provider who must be a member of the Association of National Driver Improvement Course Providers (ANDISP). The involvement of ANDISP is to ensure a consistent quality standard across all police force areas in the delivery of the workshops.
If you receive a speeding ticket, you may also receive notification that you are eligible to attend a speed awareness workshop. Usually the drivers eligible will be those that have exceeded the legal limit but not by a large amount. Each individual police force decides its own margins. If you are invited to attend such a course you will be given a specific date, time and location to attend and you will need to accept the offer. If you cannot accept it, you will need to take the fine and the points on your license instead.
The cost of attending a speed workshop varies across the different force areas. You could usually expect to pay between £60 and £100. You may find you are paying more to join the course than you would be as your fine, but by avoiding penalty points you can keep your insurance premium down and save money in the long run.
Red traffic lights
Workshops for drivers caught jumping red traffic lights are offered in some parts of Britain. The aim of the workshops is to help explain to drivers the risks associated with going through a red traffic light and to highlight the number of people killed or seriously injured by red light jumping.
For example, the London Safety Camera Partnership launched a scheme of workshops for red light offenders in 2008, to try to deal with the shocking statistic that two people every week are killed or seriously injured on London’s roads by people who don’t obey traffic lights.
The workshops aim to change drivers’ behavior, educating them to the danger they put themselves and other road users in if they ignore traffic signals. The course therefore aims to have a long-term impact on safety for all road users, and helps reduce the numbers killed and injured.
In some force areas there are workshops for drivers caught using a mobile phone while driving. For example, in the Thames Valley area, motorists may be given the option of attending a ‘Call Divert’ workshop instead of getting points on their license. The workshop’s aim is to educate drivers about the dangers of making a mobile phone call when driving and to raise awareness among drivers that this is not only illegal, but is a significant cause of accidents.
The workshops focus on the effects of holding a mobile phone when driving. They also emphasise how in-car distractions can lead to potentially fatal consequences for the driver and their passengers, as well as other road users.
Driver improvement workshops
These workshops provide further training for drivers who have been involved in a road collision or incident. The benefits are that they will avoid prosecution for a Careless Driving (os similar) offence and will hopefully reduce the risk of being involved in similar incidents in future.
In order to attend a Driver Improvement Course you would typically have been involved in a road crash or incident where the police have investigated the circumstances and feel that you have a case to answer in court, or the police feel that you would benefit from attending on a voluntary self-referral basis.
Research suggests the workshops have a positive impact. Scientific studies by University of Exeter in the late 1990s have shown a tendency for less re-offending after attendance on a Driver Improvement Scheme.
Drink-drive rehabilitation workshops
From 1 January 2000, courts throughout England, Wales and Scotland received an extra sentencing option for drink/drive offenders. If you are convicted of an offence involving drinking and driving, then the magistrate (or in Scotland the sheriff), may offer you the opportunity of attending a rehabilitation course. Completion of a course will entitle you to a reduction of up to a quarter in the period of disqualification. In the case of a one year period of disqualification, the reduction will be three months. The court will decide the length of reduction for longer periods of disqualification.
The purpose of the course is to educate drivers about the effects of alcohol consumption. A range of issues will be covered, including information about alcohol and its effect on the body; the effect of alcohol consumption on performance, particularly driving ability, and behavior; analysis of drink/driving offences; alternatives to drinking and driving future action and sources of advice. The content of courses run by different organisers across the country may vary but is likely to involve short lectures; group discussion; role play; assessment of personal drinking habits and presentations by police officers, lawyers or doctors.
Q: Is there evidence that attending a speed awareness course will do me any good?
A: Yes. Figures show that, on average, one in 12 drivers who have attended a workshop will be stopped again for speeding. That compares with one in four drivers who received a fixed penalty ticket, points and a fine.
Q: I’ve had a speeding ticket but no invitation to attend one of these workshops. Can I write to the police and ask to be put on one as I’d prefer not to have points on me licence?
A: No. You can only attend a workshop if you are referred for it by the police.
Q: Do I need to inform my insurer that I’ve been put on a speeding course? Will it affect my premium?
A: No, you do not. That’s because the speeding offence is cancelled. However, if you do not take the offer of a workshop, then you are obliged to notify your insurer of any prosecutions.
Q: I did one of these speed courses two years ago and I think I was recently flashed by a camera. If I get a ticket, will I have another go on the speed workshop?
A: No. Drivers cannot attend a course if they have attended a Speed Awareness course within the last three years.
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