Today I went to a speed awareness course. It was that or a fine and points on my license.
Basically, the way British driving law works, for those who don’t know, is that if you’re caught speeding, it’s a first time offense and a very low level high speed (up to about 10mph over) you can go on a speed awareness course. It costs £87, which is basically a fine, but less than the £200-£2000 they could charge if they wanted. The other initial benefit to the course is that you don’t get points on your license, which makes car insurance more expensive and makes it harder to hire vehicles and get certain jobs. So, points are bad.
I was caught speeding because I had to get from my work to Guildford (a journey of 46.2 miles, that takes roughly an hour) and back again in an hour and a half, to get back in time for a funeral. This was not the first, or last, time I was set up for a fall like that. So I had no choice, but to speed, or risk losing my job.
By the way, the reason I haven’t just walked out of this job is because I can’t pay many bills with my dignity and the families would be left potentially without one of the bearers needed at the funeral.
Anyway, I got caught doing 78 in a 70, the first time I’ve ever sped so much over the limit, and the first time I’ve ever been caught. I won’t lie and say I never speed, because that would be bollocks and no driver on earth can say they have never, ever gone over the speed limit. But I was pissed off to say the least. So I was mocked, endlessly, at work for speeding, despite all of my co-workers having been caught for it before, and got sent a very polite letter by the police.
I had a choice: Either I took the speed awareness course, I paid a fine and got points on my license or I could contest it, which would lead to costly court cases and more fines. So I took my lumps and booked a place on the course.
Over the course’s 4.5 hour duration, we were reminded those things we learned for the theory test and had forgotten; stopping distances, total braking times and other such things. And we were shocked to be reminded that by going just 3mph over the speed limit of 40mph, by the time you reach the truck that pulled out in front of you, you’re still travelling at 18mph, which could lead to massive trauma, injury and death. But by going at the designated speed, the worst that’ll happen is that you’ll smash your bumper, maybe a few windows and maybe get a broken bone or two, but you’ll live without serious physical injury.
The discussion turned to those affected by an accident; the victim, the victims family, the drivers family, the driver and witnesses to the collision. Everyone looked fairly blasé until I pointed out the person they had forgotten: The undertaker. The person like me who has to dress what’s left of a crash victim. At this point, everyone looked horrified. Suddenly they had a point of reference, something to relate to. They had in front of them a quiet, unassuming woman who spent her days caring for the deceased. Now their attention was caught, and I could see them trying harder, the words I told them left me shaken, but it obviously shook them too. Some actually turning their chairs round to get a better look at me; this person sat in the same room as them who saw, first hand, the devastation left by speeding. One of the speakers thanked me as I was leaving, for my honesty. He said it was upsetting to hear my words, but that he was glad I spoke up, that it might make people think more, shook my hand and gave me my new copy of the highway code.
As I walked back to my car, one of the women drove past me, slowed down, wound down her window and said “Look, I’m driving very carefully” I laughed and thanked her for her consideration. She nodded her thanks and drove away, within the speed limit. Another drove past me as I was getting into my car, nodded at ne, as if in thanks and drove away.
As I got back to town, my road was blocked by an accident, someone had decided to risk a small gap, or had stalled, either way, he was across the road when someone else came round the corner too fast to react, and smashed into the side of him. Judging by the victims tyres, he had been pushed a good few feet by the impact. I shuddered inside and continued home.
Did you know that every week, a child is killed in a car accident in the UK? That every 1.5 seconds someone is seriously injured on our world’s roads? That there are 1,775 death, 22,807 serious injuries and 194,477 reported injuries on the UKs roads in 2014? Scary, huh?
Please, I know the speed limits look boring. I know they seem unnecessary and make you late for everything, but they’re there for a reason, I promise.
N.B. For those questioning, there was a even mix of men and women there and a mix of age groups from about the mid-20s to the late-60s. Also, the Salomon’s estate in Speldhurst is beautiful!
Type ‘TAC slo mo’ into youtube, it’s an Australian infomercial, that is really quite informative.
That photo is NOT mine, but it in one of the thousands you can find by typing ‘car accident’ into google. Terrifying that there are so many on offer.