Speed Awareness Course Has Made Me Aware of My Speed
West Yorkshire Police offered me the chance to attend a speed awareness course in lieu of receiving three penalty points after I was caught travelling 57mph in a 50mph zone. My first reaction was that it was great not to have any points on my licence, my second was “fuck me, this’ll be four hours of my life I won’t get back.”
I was wrong.
Admittedly, I turned up to the speed awareness course with a negative mindset. It seemed like a waste of time and effort. My fears seemed to be confirmed when one of the instructors asked those seated at my table to look at some photos of roads, identify what the speed limit was on those roads and the speed limit we thought it should be.
Four hours of this shit was going to drive me insane. I was slightly hungover, having decided it would be a good idea to sink a bottle of red the night before, and certainly wasn’t in the mood for lectures.
My attitude changed within a few minutes of the mundane intro because the instructors were a great, fun double act. Their names elude me at the minute, which is a shame as they deserve some credit for making what is a boring subject fun and informative.
Much of the course could have been scrapped, although that would mean the course would have finished within 90-120 minutes instead of four hours. I get the feeling those who created the course made it four hours long as this was the optimal time that people’s concentration levels would still be OK while putting people out enough to make them think it was nothing but a slap on the wrist.
I have to admit that I didn’t think I was going to learn anything from the speed awareness course. After all, I’ve been driving almost 18-years, covering a few hundred thousand miles. What could they teach me that I didn’t already know?
What is a Built-Up Area?
My understanding of the definition of a built-up area was a residential or industrial area that had plenty of buildings and the like. Turns out the Highway Code’s definition of a built up area is one that has a sequence of three street lights.
This means you could be in the middle of the countryside, but it is considered a built up area if there are three street lights in sequence.
One mph Does Make All the Difference
We all know the ballpark figures for stopping distances, such as it being roughly six car lengths to stop when travelling at 30mph, but something the instructors told us on the speed awareness course resonated with me and has stopped me from breaking the speed limit even once since attending the course.
A car going 31mph will still be travelling at 7mph at the exact same spot a car travelling at 30mph has manged to come to a standstill. Even more scary is if you’re travelling at 80mph, you’d still be driving at 39mph at the same spot a car that was travelling at 70mph had stopped at. Almost 40mph, that’s fucking ridiculous.
Imagine smashing into the back of a stationary car at 39mph. Or finding a gap in the stopped traffic only to mow someone down who’d got out of their car and colliding with them at 39mph. They’d likely be dead.
I used to drive on the motorway at 80mph all the time, sometimes faster. Not anymore.
Speeding Doesn’t Make up Lost Time as Much as You Think
The course attendees agreed the most likely reason for them speeding would be because they’re running late. This is why I was on this course: I was late, put my foot down in the vain hope that I would catch up time.
One of the instructors showed us that if he was driving somewhere at 70mph and I was driving at 80mph, I would only be six seconds faster per mile. It’s fuck all. My drive to pick the smallest Pudding up is 37 miles. If I could do it all on the motorway at 80mph instead of 70mph, I’d get there 222 seconds, or 3.7 minutes, faster. I’d get their faster but I’d also run the risk of a speeding ticket and if the shit hit the fan, could be travelling at 39mph when everyone else had stopped.
Speeding is so fucking pointless.
We Control Smart Motorways
This was another thing I learned on the course. I was always of the belief that there was a control room somewhere, monitoring cameras dotted along smart motorways and that a human flicked a switch to drop the speed from 70mph to 50mph etc.
Smart motorways are called such because they control themselves. These state-of-the-art roads have sensors in them that feed into a computer that runs an algorithm or five and that determines what the speed should be.
Drive like a dickhead, swapping lanes all the time, or speeding, or breaking heavily and the smart motorway will drop the speed for the next section of road. So the next time you’re moaning about the motorway being 50mph, consider if your own driving style has contributed to this happening.
I’m Now Aware of My Speed
I can’t say that I’ll never speed again because that would be an outright lie. You sometimes have to break the speed limit to overtake or avoid a situation, although I can honestly say I will not be deliberately breaking the speed limit and have stuck to it like glue since this course. Speeding just isn’t worth it, it really isn’t.