A filthy, underhand speed camera did the dirty on me over the Christmas holidays, while I was innocently minding my own business in our Skoda Superb. Oh, the injustice of it.
What’s 6mph between friends? And anyway, by the middle of March I’m due to have a clean licence for the first time in at least 15 years and didn’t fancy taking another fixed penalty hit.
So I was, of course, delighted to be offered the choice of a new-fangled ‘speed awareness workshop’ instead of copping the three points. You still have to cough up £60 to attend but, providing you behave yourself and pay attention in class, your licence doesn’t take a battering. That’ll do me. Where do I sign?
Off to Bristol at the end of last week, then, for my re-education in the evils of speeding courtesy of the Speed Choice driver education programme, on behalf of Somerset County Council.
If I’m honest, expectations for the day weren’t high, but I was more than ready to be patronised by a smug copper for three hours in lieu of taking those three penalty points. The cheeky rebel in me even chose our Mitsubishi Evo X long-termer for the drive down.
But as it turned out the course was something of an eye-opener. For a start, there wasn’t a policeman in sight. Speed Choice’s anti-speeding mind control experts were, in fact, nice, normal human beings who smiled a lot, made some jokes and treated us like adults. They even gave us biscuits.
And as it turned out the course was pitched more like a My First Advanced Driving Lesson rather than an anti-speeding tirade. It was informal, friendly, well meaning and almost entirely unpatronising. Yes, the issue of speed and speeding – both inappropriate and excessive – was touched upon, but there was a healthy mix of other stuff thrown in. Stopping distances, hazard perception, observation and overall risk reduction all got a useful, if not in-depth, look-in.
In all, it was an almost entirely positive experience and far from an unpleasant way to spend a Friday afternoon, a view apparently shared by all 15 or so attendees. It was the closest most of us had been to a driving lesson since passing our tests. I’d even go so far as to say that several of them will, in the short term at least, become safer, better drivers. Not me though. I’m already brilliant. Got a clean licence and everything.