Just in

Once more unto the breach (again)

Earlier this week I attended a speed awareness course for (I suspect) the main reason that anyone opts to do so – in order to avoid a fine and three points on my licence after being ‘nabbed’ exceeding the speed limit on whatever type of road I was driving on at the time somewhere in the East Midlands.

I’d never be so bold as to claim I’m an excellent driver – I’m be content with a rating ‘average to above’ – but I reckon I’m reasonably observant, safe and consistent on the road.

I don’t tailgate, undertake on the inside, switch lanes without signalling, or any other stuff that might inconvenience or endanger other motorists.

Yet, according my record, I’m a habitual speeding offender with umpteen fines who once copped six months ban for reaching 12 points.

Well, let’s get to the nub of it – unlike the tens of thousands who routinely speed on Britain’s road but take care not to get caught, I’m in the category that tends to bowl along, driving safely in every situation including with a suitable gap between me and the car in front, but then from time to time gets ‘nabbed’ by the authorities.

Perhaps an example might best illustrate both my thrust and accompanying sense of injustice.

There’s a well-known route out of London featuring a dual carriageway (with a 50mph speed limit) eventually leading to a motorway on which at one time I was regularly ‘collecting’ speeding convictions.

My son once took me out to demonstrate how he drove along it without ever troubling the scorers.

In a nutshell, it involved him knowing exactly where the speed cameras were, driving at whatever excessive speed he liked in between them, but then slowing below the speed limit whenever he approached one.

My practice, however, was to proceed safely and at the correct distance from the car in front.

And, if say, by chance that car was proceeding at 55mph, then I would be too. Which was why from time to time I was picking up my ‘badges of dishonour’.

My point is this. Out of the two of us, which was/is the ‘safer’ driver?

I’d argue that was me!

My course this week – to be fair, like those I’ve attended previously – was an interesting experience (I learned a fair amount) and certainly not a waste of time.

I’m working from memory here, rather than notes, but on the latest (2018) figures roughly-speaking 1,800 people (7 per day?) are killed every year on the roads of Britain – 58% of them on rural roads – and 30,000 are seriously injured.

Contrary to what you might think, by far the safest roads in Britain are motorways, simply because the average motorway ‘shunt impact’ tends to occur at a speed of about 10mph, e.g. a car going 70mph getting hit from behind by one doing 80mph.

Unlike all other species, which have evolved to live and die by the speed (or lack of it) they can generate with their own muscles, human beings are unique in that – having acquired the capacity to develop machines that can convey them around several times faster than even Usain Bolt can run – their use of them comes with the inherent problem that, if they should ever be involved in an accident, their bodies are ill-designed to survive.

At any impact between a large entity travelling at a speed north of 15mph and a human being, the latter is at serious risk of catastrophic injury or death.

The point was made to us by one of our lecturers – with a logic that seemed inescapable – that the key to reducing the number of serious injuries and deaths on Britain’s roads was not reducing speed limits, or improving numbers of quality of road signs etc., or even catching and punishing those who get caught speeding: it was, pure and simple, changing the way drivers think and behave.

Another said that nobody attending the course was a bad person – he wasn’t going to be challenged from the floor on that statement and, to be frank, everyone in the room seemed pleasant, thoughtful and far from any stereotype you’d dream up for a serial ‘offender’ of any law or regulation – and all the course was designed to point out to us was the benefits of being more aware of what driving on the roads of Britain can involve.

After attending the course I felt it had done me some good – as did most others I spoke to.

However, as to whether it will change my habits permanently and/or in the long term, I guess we shall have to wait and see.


About Guy Danaway

Guy Danaway and his family live on the outskirts of Rugby. He is chairman of a small engineering company and has been a keen club cyclist for many years. He has edited Cycling Weekly since 1984 and is a regular contributor to the media on cycling issues. More Posts