A drivers’ rights group has described speed awareness courses as ‘money-making’ and ‘unethical’ after a government report found that the courses had little effect on road collisions.
The Department for Transport’s ‘impact evaluation’ showed that there was no ‘statistically significant’ evidence that drivers who have completed the course are less likely to be involved in collisions resulting in injuries.
However, the report also showed that speed awareness courses, which are offered to some drivers caught speeding, result in a reduction in reoffending of between 12 and 23 percent during the three years after the course had been taken.
Although the Department for Transport admits that the small sample sizes mean results of the report are ‘indicative, rather than definitive’, the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) says the lack of strong evidence to suggest that the schemes improve road safety means the courses should be used differently.
At present, drivers caught speeding within a certain speed of the limit may be offered a speed awareness course, rather than facing a fine and penalty points. However, the offender must pay for the course and can only take the course once every three years.
The ABD, however, wants the course to be offered further down the judicial process, being offered only to those convicted of an offence in court.
A statement from the ABD said: ‘This unethical and legally dubious diversion of drivers to speed awareness courses is primarily about generating money, not about road safety because there is no evidence of any real benefit.
‘We suggest speed awareness courses should cease to be a money-making industry for ex-police and road safety officers and should only be offered to people who are actually convicted of speeding offences. Otherwise they are just a way to bribe the police to look the other way when an offence is committed.’
The DfT chose to see the positive side, though, with roads minister Jesse Norman focusing on the reduction in reoffending.
‘The UK has some of the safest roads in the world, but we are always looking at ways of making them safer. That is why I am delighted to see that the National Speed Awareness Course is clearly working well in preventing drivers from putting other road users at risk by breaking speed limits.
‘We are working hard behind the scenes on what further action we can take to improve road safety, and I hope to be setting out our plans on this shortly.’