Following the Secretary of State’s launch of the consultation on variable speed penalties – including proposals for speed courses – the foundation is urging the Government to consider alternatives.
Edmund King, RAC Foundation executive director, said: ‘It has been clearly demonstrated that these courses have an effect in changing driving behaviour and perception of speed.
‘Offenders who have attended courses show real improvements in their driving but those most in need of education are drivers who don’t just slip over the speed limit but consistently flout the law or drive above the limit.’
As places on courses are limited, the foundation says places should be offered to those whose attendance would produce the biggest gain in accident reduction.
King said: ‘Inappropriate speed is a problem that needs to be addressed by a package of measures – including driver education, a review of speed limits to ensure realistic limits and better signing of limits, including interactive warning signs. The foundation believes much greater emphasis should be put on driver re-education as an alternative to prosecution. We also stress that automatic enforcement by camera is no substitute for traffic police and Government has to address the reduction in officers as a matter of urgency.
‘We would also suggest that, for those doing higher speeds, courses could be linked to a reduced number of penalty points and fines. Every driver caught speeding should be offered a speed awareness course at least once. We also support the proposal for ‘driver re-training’ for more serious offences.’
The foundation has been campaigning for a scheme of national speed awareness courses but King stressed: ‘It is important to have national guidelines as the content of current pilot courses varies considerably.
‘All should have a practical element, with the offender actually going on the road with an advanced instructor.’
Transport Minister's view
IN a parliamentary written answers at the end of May, Dr Stephen Ladyman, MP and Minister of State for Transport (pictured right), was asked which counties in England and Wales did not offer motorists caught speeding the option of taking a speed awareness course. He was also asked what plans he had to increase the availability of such courses.
Ladyman said: ‘The eight police forces in England listed as follows currently run speed awareness courses, offering them to drivers where they judge this to be an appropriate alternative to prosecution.
‘The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is putting in place arrangements for a national programme, including guidance to ensure consistent and rigorous standards, and plans to launch this initiative later in the year.
‘The Government welcomes this move, which will help make drivers more aware of speed and its effects, rather than simply punishing them.’
Police forces currently offering speed awareness schemes are: