More Profiteering and Bill Status

The police are persistent in inventing new ways to make money from motorists by expanding the coverage of “education” courses. The latest example is the creation of a new “National Motorway Speed Awareness” course for those who break the speed limit indicated on overhead gantrys in variable speed limit areas (“smart motorways”).

This is shorter than the normal speed awareness course but costs £75. It is ony being offered at 12 locations so drivers may have to travel a long distance to attend one.

Why has this new course been invented? One reason may be because drivers are only normally permitted to attend one speed awareness course in every 3 years, although in practice some police forces seem to ignore this rule. The reason for the rule is to avoid allegations of profiteering by allowing people to take repeated courses rather than avoid real penalties. But they will be able to do a standard speed awareness course and this new one within the same 3 year period.

Of course there is no evidence that any of these education courses do any good, and it will be some time before we see the results of a Government study on that issue. That’s even assuming it is done rigorously.

Comment: If variable speed limits were set wisely then enforcing them might make some sense. But in reality we all know that the automated software that does so is not fit for purpose. Often limits are set way too low for the traffic volume, with no exceptional hazards apparent either.

The Times covered this news item and this is what Steve Gooding of the RAC Foundation had to say on the example of a driver who was offered such a course in Derby after being caught doing 49mph in a 40 limit on the M25 in Surrey: “It can’t make sense to require someone guilty of a motoring offence to drive 170 miles to learn how to drive more safely on the 170 miles back.”

Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill Update

This Government Bill was passing through Parliament when the General Election was called, and hence has effectively been abandoned. It will have to be reintroduced in the new Parliament. The Bill contained clauses that would prevent any simple legal challenge to the misuse of police waivers and speed awareness courses, and although it introduced some regulations over them these are way too lax. See http://www.speed-awareness.org/vehicle-tech-bill.html for more background. Let us hope that the Government, or any new Minister who takes responsibility for it, will reconsider that part of the Bill so that it severely restricts the profiteering by the police from this corruption.

If you talk to your prospective M.P. before the election, you may like to ask him some pointed questions about his stance on this issue, and what he is doing to stop the “war on the motorist” of which this is just one more example.

Note that even RoadPeace, an organisation that campaigns on road safety and which is often not friendly to road users, has complained that the increasing reliance on speed cameras and the relative decline in actual prosecutions (which they believe are much more of a deterrent than speed awareness courses), is undermining road safety improvement. It said the number of people killed and seriously injured dropped by 16% between 2005-09, but only by 1% over the period 2010-15 in England and Wales. Meanwhile, the number of officers fell by 28% in five years, outside of London where the numbers fell by 11% from 2010-14, according to Home Office figures.

As we have said before, speed cameras in general, and speed awareness courses in particular don’t have much to do with road safety and the enormous amount of resources (and drivers time and money) spent on them would be much better spent on other road safety measures.

It’s the money that is associated with these practices that drives their expansion, not a rational view of what the road safety priorities should be.

Roger Lawson

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