In April, I was snapped by this speed camera in London doing 34mph in a 30mph limit. I didn’t realize it until a notice of intended prosecution arrived in the mail from the Metropolitan Police about a week later.
In the UK, admitting a traffic violation like this attracts a Â£60 fine plus three penalty points on your driving license. (If you don’t admit it, the police will institute court proceedings: the ‘intended prosecution’ into action, as it were.)
But depending on where you committed the offence, you might be offered an alternative – pay Â£95 to attend a 2Â½-hour educational workshop in lieu of the fine and points.
I remember the day and time when it happened: I was on my way to the Social Media Cafe (and running a bit late). So once I’d sent back the acknowledgement of the notice of intended prosecution confirming that, yes, I was the driver at the time, I got that offer as this scheme operates in the Metropolitan Police area.
As I have a wholly clean license – after 30 years of driving, not a single penalty point – I took up the offer.
And so earlier this month, I spent an afternoon in Ealing at a London Speed Awareness Workshop.
I have to admit that curiosity about the workshop as much as avoiding penalty points was a prime influence in accepting the police offer.
Like most drivers, I think, I’m of the view that I’m a safe driver, observing speed limits and generally driving in a way that’s no risk to others on the public roads.
And I suppose like most drivers, I often think that other drivers aren’t so good.
For me, as well as for the 19 others in the workshop that day, such views were tested via a computerized driving risk profile that took you through a range of scenarios you’d encounter in everyday driving on the roads where you had to take actions via a mouse as to what you were seeing on the computer screen.
One surprise result for me was my video speed test score which showed that I tend to drive faster than average, something I did not think I did.
All my other scores – on close following, perceptions of hazards, emotional reactions, attention/distraction and fatigue – were pretty good.
Doing the driving risk profile took about an hour followed by discussion and a presentation from the trainers.
We heard a lot of statistics about collisions (what used to be called ‘accidents’) and fatalities in the UK over the years
It’s hard to relate to big numbers, though, as they seem too remote to have any personal impact.
What did make a big impression for me was a video of a Thames Valley Police experiment showing a car at various speeds having to come to a full stop right in front of a cut-out figure of a girl standing in a road.
At 30mph, no problem at all: the driver stopped in good time. At 40mph, not a chance of stopping in time; the resulting collision would likely cause severe injuries if not death.
The big impression for me was what happened at 32mph, ie, just 2mph above the experiment’s speed limit.
The driver could not stop in time, hitting the cut-out figure of the girl which would have caused injuries: broken bones and the like.
So that’s what’s been in my mind a lot since the workshop – even being slightly above a posted speed limit, at a speed that I’m sure most people would think “what difference does 2 or 4mph make?”, can have devastating consequences.
I’m trying to be an even safer driver.