How TTC Turned Speed Awareness Courses into a Big Business

An interesting article in the Shropshire Star has explained how local company TTC Group, based in Telford, have turned the provision of speed awareness courses into a big business. To quote from the article:

“Jim Kirkwood, TTC CEO, said: Since the business was formed in 1993, we have helped more than 2.7 million people across the UK. That is some achievement and a long way from when Graham and Jenny Wynn came up with the idea of reducing casualties on the road and re-offending through better driver education and training.

Back then there was only the two of them and a small team in their Shropshire office, but that didn’t stop them from creating a pilot scheme which cut re-offending by 50 per cent. This proved they had something that worked and prompted the Government to push through new legislation encouraging education as an alternative to punishment.

TTC has built on this pioneering work and today is one of the largest National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) training providers, offering seven police referral courses.

The award-winning company employs 130 people at its headquarters on Hadley Park and a 500-strong panel of approved trainers that deliver coaching and NDORS courses on behalf of 14 police forces across the UK.”

Apart from the fact that Mr Kirkwood was incorrect in stating that legislation was put in place to cover education course – there is no such legislation covering the use of police waivers and the offer of education courses – and that reoffending rates are not reduced to anywhere near the extent claimed with no reduction in casualties (see the recent Ipsos-MORI report), you can see how the NDORS scheme has enabled the building of a big private-sector company which generates enormous profits for its owners. Indeed this business is so profitable that it was acquired by Palatine Private Equity recently and is now called Project Track Topco Ltd.

Roger Lawson

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Police Bid to Obtain More Money from Education Courses

Alison Hernandez, who leads on road safety for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, is advocating that the cost of speeding fines and driver education courses is hiked. This could mean the cost of an average NDORS course might rise to £130. By implication this suggests that she wants the fees received by the police from NDORS courses to rise from £45 to £95 if all the extra money was given to them.

So it’s almost “double your money”. She argues that would enable the police to spend more on road safety, but the analysis by the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) of where all the money went from such courses in 2017 shows that only a trivial proportion (1.3%) is actually spent on road safety. All the rest is consumed in the safety camera industry including paying for more cameras, more staff to operate them, more administration and more trainers.

But do education courses actually reduce casualties? In other words, is there any road safety benefit by sending people on an education course? Not according to the results of a very detailed Government sponsored study published this year on the subject.

Ms Hernandez also wants the money from speeding fines that currently go to the Treasury to be diverted to the police. That was previously changed after the police turned it into a money generating operation – for example by catching motorists where they were easy to catch rather than where there was a dangerous road location. The Government quite rightly put a stop to that and now funds road safety programmes themselves to ensure the money is allocated wisely. But it was the catalyst for the creation of speed camera industry which is still in operation since the police invented diversionary courses using “waivers of prosecution”. The ABD argues this is not just unauthorised, it is simply illegal. See the ABD’s AMPOW campaign against them for more information.

Ms Hernandez is surely just using “road safety” as a poor excuse to raise more money for her police force. She is Police Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall which should be noted by those who elected her.

Roger Lawson

Further information:

Where All the Money from Speed Awareness Courses Went in 2017: https://speedawareness.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/where-all-the-money-from-speed-awareness-courses-went-in-2017/

No Benefit from Speed Awareness Courses: https://speedawareness.wordpress.com/2018/05/14/no-benefit-from-speed-awareness-courses/

AMPOW Campaign (Against Misuse of Police Waivers) Web Site: https://www.speed-awareness.org/

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Where All the Money from Speed Awareness Courses Went in 2017

UK ROED, the company which operates the NDORS driver education scheme, recently published its accounts to the end of March 2018. UK ROED Ltd is owned by (i.e. is a subsidiary of) a charity named The Road Safety Trust, another company which published accounts to the same date. What do these accounts tell us about the massive slush fund that is being operated in the name of road safety?

UK ROED Ltd had income of £61.6 million from fees received, from which £55.9 million was paid to the police. That’s up from £47.5 million paid to the police in the previous year. Those fees are allegedly to cover the police’s administration costs but are in reality used to fund expansion of speed camera operations and other unrelated costs that have nothing much to do with road safety – see information on our web site here about that: https://www.speed-awareness.org/

Of the £61.6 million in income, only £1.8 million was paid over to The Road Safety Trust – down from £3.1 million in the previous year). That charity spent £1.3 million on charitable activities which mainly comprise funding of research activities. These are no doubt worthy activities. But the surplus of £485,000 was retained. This resulted in the assets it held increasing to £4.4 million. In other words, this is not only a charity that does not spend all of its income, but it is also building up a very substantial financial asset figure which is not normally perceived as acceptable for charities.

UK ROED Ltd had £3.8 million of “administrative expenses” but only £764,000 was spent on staff salaries and pensions. It is not obvious where the difference was spent.

In addition to the £61.6 million that passes through the UK ROED accounts there are the fees received by the speed awareness course operators. One of the largest course operators is TTC 2000 Ltd whose accounts to December 2017 showed revenue of £26.8 million and profits of £775,000. They run about a third of all speed awareness courses. Based on that information and the fact that average course fees are about £100, it’s reasonable to estimate that total fees paid by the 1.2 million drivers attending courses each year is at least £100 million.

Therefore in total the speed-awareness course system is extracting £100 million from the pockets of road users with no immediate road safety benefit whatsoever and with a trivial proportion (about 1.3%) actually being spent on road safety research or programmes. All the rest goes on expenses including the employment of many ex-police officers.

Bearing in mind that a recently published report from the Department for Transport (DfT) showed there was no “statistically significant effect on the number or severity of injury collisions” from attendance at a speed awareness course (in other words, NO BENEFIT WHATSOEVER), it is very odd that the Government permits the operations of these companies to continue. It would seem they are self-perpetuating and self-governed organisations which are outside of Government control and which consume £100 million of pounds every year of road users’ cash while they have no direct impact on road casualties.

Roger Lawson

(Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmpowABD )

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Police in Scotland Abandon Plans for Speed Awareness Courses

According to a report in the Herald newspaper, police in Scotland have shelved plans to introduce speed awareness courses in the country like they operate in England. The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has of course campaigned against the misuse of police waivers and the perversion of justice involved in the police extracting cash by inducing the payment of a bribe to waive prosecution. See our AMPOW campaign here: https://www.speed-awareness.org/ . Only recently a Government commissioned study showed there was no benefit whatsoever in terms of casualty reduction from sending millions of people on speed awareness courses every year.

The Scottish Police Authority have suggested that they have “deprioritised” the introduction of such courses on financial grounds as they would require substantial investment in new IT facilities. But could it be that they have realised how legally dubious the operation of the system in England really is? The ABD has made representations on this subject to the senior legal authorities in Scotland who would have to give permission for the operation of such a scheme. Perhaps this is a case where the police in Scotland have simply been persuaded that it is a step too far?

All we need now is for the UK Government in Westminster to recognise the same reality.

See the Herald story here for more information: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16600735.police-put-brakes-on-plans-to-drop-fines-for-speed-awareness-courses/?action=success#comments-feedback-anchor

Roger Lawson

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No Benefit From Speed Awareness Courses

The Department for Transport (DfT) have, after a long delay, published the Ipsos-MORI report that they commissioned into the effectiveness of speed awareness courses. This is the key statement in the Executive Summary: “this study did not find that participation in NSAC [National Speed Awareness Courses] had a statistically significant effect on the number or severity of injury collisions”.

In other words, as the Alliance of British Drivers has repeatedly 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. Indeed drivers who have attended such courses might be interested in another statement in the report: “the NSAC was not designed to reduce the incidence of collisions”. So what exactly is the objective one might ask as it appears not to be focussed on improving road safety?

Was the study too small to produce statistically significant results? Not exactly because the records of 2.2 million drivers, of whom 1.4 million had accepted a course offer, were studied over a period of 4 years. This data was linked to subsequent speed reoffending and involvement in collisions to produce the report’s conclusions. That’s a large sample.

The only impact they found was that there was a minor reduction in reoffending after involvement in an NSAC, but that is surely hardly surprising because drivers might simply take more care about speeding after being caught for one offence because you cannot be offered a second NSAC within 3 years. Alternatively perhaps some drivers simply go out and purchase a device or software that warns them about cameras.

The report argues that an even bigger study might prove there is some benefit but the proponents of such courses are surely clutching at straws if they think that expense is worthwhile.

Regardless 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 (a waiver of prosecution as they call it). That’s corruption and a perversion of justice!

Regrettably the invention by the police of education courses and the associated “waivers of prosecution” has resulted in the financing of ever greater numbers of speed cameras, with empires being built within the police and in commercial organisations that are financed by the cut they get out of the fees paid by course attendees. In reality this diversion of resources from tackling real road safety issues has been detrimental to improving road safety in the UK. Most drivers do not realise that attending a course actually helps to finance more cameras and hence more chance they will face a real prosecution in future for a trivial offence.

The ABD’s campaign against this illegality is documented on this web site which explains the history, the financial arrangements and the evidence of police profiteering: http://www.speed-awareness.org/

The Ipsos-MORI report can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-speed-awareness-course-impact-evaluation

Roger Lawson

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Zero Tolerance on Speeding Advocated

A lot of publicity has been given to the call by Anthony Bangham, Chief Constable of West Mercia Police, for zero tolerance on those who exceeed speed limits. He appeared to suggest in a speech to the Police Federation that the existing system of allowing drivers to exceed the speed limit of 10% plus 2 mph should be abandoned. In other words if you are doing 33 mph, or even less, in a 30 mph zone then you should be prosecuted. He also suggested that speed-awareness courses were being used too often as an alternative to prosecution.

Mr Bangham is the road policing lead for the National Police Chief’s Council so his words might have some weight. But even other police officers have criticised the zero tolerance approach on both practical grounds and the probability that it might undermine public attitudes to the police.

There are of course other difficulties. Would a prosecution for driving at 31 mph in a 30 zone stand up in court? Probably not if challenged because speed camera manufacturers don’t claim perfect accuracy and there are often factors that can distort the reading to some extent.

There is also the difficulty for drivers that speedometers may not be accurate, and speed limits are often now set unreasonably low for political reasons by local councillors.

Those who support Mr Bangham’s stance, and particularly Police and Crime Commisioners, should recall what happened to the former Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Olly Martins. He was reported in the Daily Telegraph on the 4th November 2015 as planning to switch on speed cameras permanently on the M1 and set them at 70 mph under a “zero tolerance” approach. This was expected to generate “up to a million pounds for his cash strapped force”.  Mr Martins also spoke to the Commons Home Affairs Committee on “Reform of Police Funding” on the 3rd November 2015 where he said, after complaining about shortages in Police funding, that “I am now looking at things like turning on the HADECS cameras on the M1 and driving revenue from that, looking at sponsorship opportunities: does someone want to sponsor panda cars, our police officers’ uniforms, so any….” at which point he was interrupted. But it is clear that he thought financing the police in general from Speed Awareness Course fees was acceptable. Mr Martins failed to get re-elected in 2016, after wide publicity on his views.

But this idea still has legs. It was recently stated by the local Derbyshire “Casualty Reduction Enforcement Support Team” that on the new smart motorway section of the M1 near Sheffield (junctions 32 to 35A) that the cameras would be turned on all the time and the 70 mph limit would be enforced at all times (i.e. 24 hours per day). Many people consider the 70 mph speed limit to be ridiculously low on modern motorways, particularly when traffic is light but of course there is a strong financial incentive to follow Mr Martins approach.

Note that Anthony Bangham is also Chairman of charity the Road Safety Trust (he took over from Suzette Davenport). That organisation controls UK ROED Ltd who administer the NDORS scheme and who receive £5 from each speed awareness course attendee – see http://www.speed-awareness.org/profits.html for the labrythine financial structure of these operations.

Perhaps needless to point out that there is an obvious conflict of interest in Mr Bangham advocating zero tolerance when he is Chairman of an organisation that directly financially benefits from more people attending speed awareness courses!

Comment: Bearing in mind that the police now don’t bother to pursue minor crimes such as shoplifting or burglary due to staff shortages, is it not odd that a senior policeman adopts this stance on the “victimless” crime of speeding. Zero tolerance applied to all crime would be both enormously expensive and morally dubious. As one of my contacts said, perhaps it’s a case of “Police can NOT catch the Criminals – so they Criminalise the Catchables” with automated enforcement systems. And as we have pointed out in our AMPOW campaign, this has led to corruption of the police because of their ability to generate cash from speed-awareness courses.

Postscript: The day after the above article was written, the Sunday Times reported that they had monitored the speed of traffic outside the headquarters of the West Mercia Police. More than 100 cars per hour were breaking the speed limit. The article noted that “The speed trap revealed the cash mountain that awaits if Bangham’s policy is implemented”. It also contained comments from ABD Director Ian Taylor pointing out how impractical it was to have zero tolerance.

Roger Lawson

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Report on Speed Awareness Course Delayed

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, as the Government commissioned research by IPSOS-MORI into the effectiveness of speed awareness courses seemed to be delayed as it is well past when it was expected to report, I submitted an FOI Act request. I have now received a response.

The answer is that the research has been completed and a draft report was received by the DfT in December. It is being “prepared for publication” which is likely to be in the spring.

Why should it take so long before being published? Probably because it needs extensive massaging to come out with the right answer I suggest. You should not expect this to be an unbiased or scientifically sound study of the issue.

Roger Lawson

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