More Accidents After Doing Speed Awareness Course

The Guardian have published an article on speed awareness courses and the fact that some insurers will increase your premium if you report that you have been on one. For example, Admiral increased a quote by £50 apparently.

Even more interesting is the statement that “Admiral says its data shows that drivers who attend a speed awareness course are more likely to have an accident in the following 12 months than those who committed no offence”.

If that is true then it undermines the whole rationale for the speed camera and speed awareness industry. To remind you, more than a million drivers attend such courses each year now, with major profits going to the police, course operators and UK ROED Ltd who run the programme. See www.speed-awareness.org for the evidence.

Is it possible that attending a speed awareness courses makes drivers over confident because they think they “know it all”? Or perhaps they spend more time looking at the speedometer than keeping their eyes on the road? Of course, there could be other explanations, and I will ask Admiral for some more information on their evidence.

Note that the Department for Transport (DfT) have commissioned a study which is due to report later this year on the effectiveness of speed awareness courses. Let us hope that it will provide hard evidence. There have been previous studies of these courses but these have primarily been “attitudinal surveys” taken of those who have attended a course. They generally report positive changes, probably because folks don’t like to admit they wasted a day of their time and the questions posed could be “leading” ones. Other feedback is patchy – for example listen to one member of the public rubbishing the course he attended on a recent BBC radio programme here: https://speedawareness.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/money-making-in-northern-ireland-from-speed-awareness-courses/

It should of course be possible to track the accident records (either from police reports or accident claims) of drivers before and after attendance. That would provide the hard evidence. But even if proven, it would not make the offer of such courses legal. In the meantime, nobody involved in the running of these courses seems to want to examine the facts.

The Guardian article is present here: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/aug/21/admiral-car-insurance-speed-awareness-course

Roger Lawson

Money Making in Northern Ireland from Speed Awareness Courses

I have just taken part in a discussion of speed awareness courses on BBC Northern Ireland Radio (on 16/8/2017 just after 12.00 noon). The item was prompted by the results of a Freedom of Information Act request by the BBC which is reported on here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-40940371

In summary almost 190,000 people have done speed awareness courses in Northern Ireland since 2010, with the Police Service of NI (PSNI) receiving £6 million pounds as a result.

That compares with over 1 million people every year now doing speed awareness courses across the UK as a whole.

The discussion format programme commenced with a course presenter explaining the benefits of the courses and how surveys of past attendees had indicated they were beneficial. They then had two people who had been on a course report their experience – these two had been lined up in advance, no doubt by the former person I would guess so unsurprisingly perhaps, they were positive.

But I pointed out that there was as yet no firm evidence of any benefit, and we were still awaiting a more substantial investigation of the results from a Government commissioned report.

The compere then took some “phone-ins”. The first such caller proceeded to completely rubbish the course he took. He said it was “absolute garbage” and was fobbed off with nonsense when he asked a question. He considered it just a “money-grabbing exercise”. The caller made it very clear that he was totally opposed to them.

Another caller suggested that if they were so beneficial, why were they not incorporated into the Driving Test. I agreed this was a good idea, but the reason that it was not done was that people could not make money out of that.

In all, a somewhat amusing radio session which you may be able to listen to on the BBC i-Player on the web in due course (BBC Ulster).

P.S. A recording of the programme is now on Audioboom here: https://audioboom.com/posts/6210030-does-the-speed-awareness-course-actually-work

Roger Lawson

Profits on Speed Awareness Courses in Gloucestershire

Radio channel Heart published some information on the profits made by Gloucestershire County Council in 2016/2017 in an article which has subsequently been removed from their web site.

Gloucestershire were one of the few councils that ran their own speed awareness courses and reportedly made about £400,000 in profits from doing so that year. But Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl was reported as saying that they should not have made a profit in that way, and specifically said “The law is fairly clear, it’s been clarified. I think it was ambiguous at one point but it’s very clear now, you’re only allowed to recover the cost of the course, everything else must be paid for in some other way through taxation. I know they made money on it and I’m not blaming them for that but it isn’t legal anymore, if it ever was, so that’s just the reality and the courses are now £14 cheaper as a result”. The courses are now run by a private company, so presumably they will be making any profits available instead.

Nigel Riglar, from the Council, denied they did anything illegal. But they are now having to fund the Road Safety Partnership directly.

It is also worth noting that the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Police, Suzette Davenport, has recently retired. She has been very active in the gravy train of speed awareness courses and is a director of UK ROED Ltd (see http://www.speed-awareness.org/profits.html).

So why was the Heart article removed? Was it too embarrassing an admission from Martin Surl? Or simply that his comments were surely not quite correct. Perhaps he was referring to the new Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill that was passing through Parliament before interrupted by the General Election. That might make it legal when it is not at present. But the Bill has yet to be passed.

Roger Lawson

Hertfordshire Leading in Money Generation

One document about the use of Speed Awareness and other Driver Offender Retraining Courses that was recently brought to my attention is a report published by Hertfordshire County Council in October 2016. Hertfordshire Council is different in the way many such courses are organised and run in that they actually run the courses themselves rather than have a third party commercial organisation run them.

In addition the document (see www.tinyurl.com/mfr63e8 ) explains the history of their involvement in the running of such courses dating as far back as 1995 which makes it clear that they one of the first to jump on this bandwagon. The number of drivers attending such courses in Herfordshire has grown from 275 in 1996//97 to 41,641 in 2015/16. In the last year these generated gross income of £3.7 million and net income of £947,000 after expenses. The expenses include the cost of running the courses (venues, staff costs, etc), and £1.63 million to NDORS (£40 per driver, of which £35 gets paid to the referring police force and £5 retained by NDORS).

The net income is spent on “discretionary road safety activity” such as school crossing patrols, road safety education, cycle training and to support the safety camera partnership. Yes Hertfordshire County Council is also a member of the Hertfordshire Safety Camera Partnership along with the police and the Courts.

What is pernicious about all of this? Local Councils set speed limits so you can see that Hertfordshiare might have a financial interest in reducing the limits so as to enable more prospective prosecutions and offers of speed awareness courses. And clearly if money from course fees is recycled to fund the safety camera partnership they are likely to purchase more cameras so as to generate even more revenue and “jobs for the boys”.

This whole arrangement is typical of the financial incentives that have been driving the spread of speed cameras and the massive increase in speeding fines. There is no evidence that it has had any impact on road safety.

And who is the author of the Hertfordshire Council report? One Ian Powell, Road Safety Team Leader. Now it seems he is also Chairman of the National Association of Driver Intervention Providers (NADIP). That is apparently a trade body formed to promote the interests of course providers – see: https://ndors.org.uk/courses/how-become-course-provider/. You can see that this “industry” has now reached such a size that it needs a body to protect its interests!

But at least the Hertfordshire report does say that “The Alliance of British Drives along with others is questioning of the effectiveness of courses and the use of surplus revenue generated from fees”. Pity about the grammar errors but otherwise they certainly got that right.

Roger Lawson

Paying For More Speed Cameras in Yorkshire

The Northern Echo recently ran a story about how 15,000 motorists were caught speeding in the A1(M) road works over the last couple of years. North Yorkshire Police issued 12,094 fixed penalty tickets in 2015 and 2016 for speeding between Leeming Bar and Barton alone the article said. There are likely to be many more in the current financial year after completion of the road works was delayed by another six months.

The article also reported that 6,492 people were offered and accepted a speed awareness course at a cost of £85 each which means they paid £551,820.

The article quoted Brian Gregory, an ABD Director, extensively. It included: “The work on this scheme has been going on for months and it seems like another example of opportunistic fund raising. There are extremely wide lanes on both sides most of the way which have no road works on them at all. Words fail me. I am flabbergasted at the mendacity of these organisations who use road safety as a cover to generate revenue”. Brian also called for a independent regulatory body to look at speed camera operations.

A North Yorkshire Police spokeswoman is quoted in the article as saying after the usual platitudes about road safety and speeding that “The money generated from the courses is used to fund more safety camera vans and equipment and enables us to tackle the issue of speeding and other offences head on”.

So here we have further evidence that reinforces our claim that the police are using speed awareness courses to not just cover their administration costs but to fund both more speed cameras and other equipment. They have recently doubled the number of mobile speed camera vans to 12 in North Yorkshire. See more background on this in our web page giving the evidence on how speed awareness courses are being used to finance more camera operations here: http://www.speed-awareness.org/evidence.html

This is surely not about road safety but about financial empire building by the police. More cameras and more staff to operate them, and this process will continue until the Government puts a stop to this illegal funding arrangement.

Roger Lawson

Hayes Response and Course Evaluation

I have received a response from John Hayes, M.P., who is the Minister directly responsible for the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill which is currently going through Parliament. This is a response to my letter to Chris Grayling on police waivers and “education courses” but Mr Hayes letter says nothing new and is simply dismissive of our concerns. It fails to respond to some of the key issues that we raised.

However, as a General Election is being called, this will halt the progress of all business in Parliament although the aforementioned Bill is likely to be revived in the new Parliament. Or it might get rushed through the Lords without debate which would be most unfortunate.

Mr Hayes says in his letter that, as we already knew, research is currently underway which will report before the end of the year, on the impact of education courses. This is what he said to the Public Bill Committee on that topic:

“The Department, in conjunction with the Road Safety Trust, has commissioned an evaluation of national speed awareness courses. As the hon. Gentleman will know, this is only one of several courses offered, but it covers about 85% of those that offend. The evaluation methodology will be suitable for the future evaluation of other schemes. Because the hon. Gentleman will ask me, I will tell him in advance that the research is examining course impact, including reoffending and reconviction rates and collisions. That will therefore provide analysis of the data requested in new subsection (6A) of the amendment. In fact, the amendment suggests a one-off basis, but I want to do this on a continuing basis. I expect the final report to be presented to the project board no later than the end of this year. 

The project board overseeing the work includes representatives from the Department for Transport, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Road Safety Trust, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety and the RAC Foundation. The project team has worked hard to ensure that appropriate and rigorous data processing arrangements are in place to enable data transfer between the police, the DVLA and Ipsos MORI, which is the organisation we have commissioned to do the work with those organisations.” 

Comments: Apart from the fact that the Government is not waiting for the results of this research before pushing ahead with enabling legislation, you will note that one of the joint sponsors is the Road Safety Trust. That is one of the organisations that are the main financial beneficiaries of the money raised from drivers for attending the courses and is a major source of their finance. In addition the police in the form of the NPCC are involved when the police are also a major beneficiary of the funds from courses. Will the report really end up being negative about this whole matter even if the results do not support the use of speed awareness courses?

If you have not already written to your Member of Parliament, please do so now. You should write via post or email opposing this Bill and ask for amendments to be made to it. (Include your name and full postal address even in an email to ensure your M.P. will respond).

How do you write to your M.P.? You can obtain their contact details from this web page: http://parliament.uk  (enter your post code at the bottom left). This will take you to a page giving their name, postal address and email address – an email will do fine.

DO WRITE TO YOUR M.P. NOW – THIS IS URGENT

Also please write similarly to any Member of the House of Lords that you know.

Roger Lawson

More Evidence on Revenues and How Applied

The supporters of this campaign continue to provide evidence on the money received by the police from speed awareness courses, and how it is spent. Here are another two examples:

  1. Nottinghamshire Police received £1.3 million in 2015 based on the £35 referral fees via NDORS from the fees paid by course attendees. They issued 83,853 NIPs in that year with 39,610 courses attended. They declined to provide information on where that money is spent.
  2. South Yorkshire Safety Camera Partnership had an overall income budget of £1,460,266 in 2013/2014 of which £830,788 came from the “Driver Diversion Course Fees” (Source; South Yorkshire Safety Cameras Operational Plan 2013/14 to 2014/15). The rest came from Local Authorities. The budgets are similar for 2014/2015 although the Local Authority contribution was forecast to fall. When looking at the Expenditure in 2013/2014, which matched the expected income, there is £855,646 on staff costs and £353,000 on Equipment Maintenance Costs.

But when you look at page 36 of that document which gives a detailed organisation structure diagram it is clear that there are 10 staff directly involved in “Enforcement” including Camera Technicians. In other words, a very large proportion of the costs are involved in operating and maintaining speed cameras so it is very clear that the claim that the revenue from speed awareness courses is solely used on administration is nonsense.

In addition South Yorkshire do not appear to even split out administration of speed awareness course invites from other activities, but as they have more staff on “enforcement” than on “administration”, and the latter includes other work than administration of speed awareness course invites, plus the “equipment maintenance costs” are clearly not administration costs, it is very obvious that speed awareness course kickbacks via NDORS are funding the installation, maintenance and operation of speed cameras.

Roger Lawson