Last Saturday, when the rest of you were enjoying a rare burst of early springtime sunshine, I was tucked up inside a training room at our local sports hall, consuming the medicine that is a speed awareness course.
A couple of months earlier I’d been photographed by a mobile speed camera at 81mph on a dual carriageway, which put me precisely two miles per hour into the red. Had I been photographed at 79mph on the same piece of road the brown envelope would simply never have arrived.
But anyway, that was then, and this was now. And so for the next four hours I had to sit there, listening to what would presumably be some startling new facts about speeding.
To begin with the man taking the course seemed quite jovial. We were each asked how fast we’d been going. At 81mph I won the award for highest speed in the room (there were between 30-35 other people there) but in this case I didn’t win a prize – because most other people had been done at 30-something.
To begin with I found that quite surprising. But then as the course went on, it began to make sense – because most of the people in the room that day were, for some odd reason, drivers who rarely venture out of town. And most of them didn’t know too much about driving, or speed limits, or what happens to a car if and when things start to go wrong.
There were, however, some quite smart people present, too; people who clearly like their driving. And yet these were the people with whom the initially jovial but soon extremely serious lecturer seemed to get most pleasure out of dressing down. Which was weird.
People who like and care about their driving are invariably the sort of drivers who might a) bend the speed limit a touch from time to time but also b) pay far more attention to what they’re doing behind the wheel than the average Joseph Soap. But to the lecturers – there were two of them – this didn’t seem to matter one iota.
Anyroad, as the course went on we were told about how we needed to view the road as if on high beam, not dipped beam, and about how when a car brakes it loses the vast majority of its speed in the last few metres of its travel, not the first few; and about how dreadful it is that us drivers don’t do any training once we’ve passed our test – all of which was fair game I suppose and actually quite interesting if I’m honest.
But when lecturer number two took the floor and began telling us about how we should all be driving as economically as we can in towns nowadays – with our air conditioning systems switched off and our windows down so that we save fuel, and by turning the engine off at junctions so that we save fuel, but ideally in third gear, not fourth, so that we don’t accidentally break the speed limit (but in the process burning a whole heap MORE fuel than we otherwise might; genius!) – I have to admit my eyes glazed over. And I began to crave the moment when it would all be over and I could go home.
Despite some quite good stuff about observation (which to be fair I kind of knew about anyway) it was a fairly tedious experience overall. But then, hey, I swerved the three points on my licence, paid just £85 for the course whereas the fine would have been £100, and learned that insurance companies owned by Admiral will try to charge you more just for taking the course. Which the local police authorities aren’t entirely chuffed about.
And I guess the key thought I came away with was; don’t get caught again – because next time, for the next three years at any rate, it’ll be a prosecution, not a speed awareness course. So how about not speeding in the first place, in other words.
And that’s the piece of advice I know I’ll find hardest to adhere to on a quiet, dry, empty, straight piece of road, at half six in the morning, and on a well-lit summer’s day.