Attending a “Speed Awareness 20mph” course

That was the name of the course I attended yesterday which my beloved reminded me was designed for naughty people. In my case it was driving along a stretch of road on Southend seafront where the speed limit was 20mph and when I drove at greater than that speed – and the indisputable proof was – I was caught on camera!

I was offered the choice of paying a fine and having three points added on my driving license or paying a bit more and attending said course and getting no points. I chose to take the latter option. Until that ominous envelope appeared on my door mat, I was quite oblivious of having done anything wrong, and having been caught some years back exceeding the then 30mph limit I am these days extra mindful driving that stretch of the road. Just to check out what it was I did and should have done, following the course I will get onto, I drove along what was for me a very familiar stretch of road checking out all the warning signs (which unsurprisingly were all present and correct) especially mindful of needing to keep to the prescribed speed limits. While no excuse, I found it was difficult to drive less that 20mph especially when road conditions indicated it was safe to go a lot faster, sensing the impatient vibes of  drivers in cars behind me and when driving below 20mph is not that easy.

Going back to the course (held at the Holiday Inn, Basildon), which was arranged with minimal fuss and before which I was sent reminders of needing to attend with my driving license and the consequences of not doing so, I arrived in good time and along with 27 other miscreants representing a full cross section of society, many I would imagine are pillars thereof and disproportionately more middle aged to older men, and were greeted by our two chirpy instructors for the three hour session that was to follow. Part of the ice breaking they did so well was to ask the class if anyone wanted to be on the course to which the answer was no, and if we would rather be doing something else, to which the answer was yes. They also asked what were the speeds we were clocked at when the offenses took place, and a surprising number were just over the limit.

These days I tend to avoid going on courses and being retired means I don’t usually need to, except in cases like yesterday, or where knowledge was being imparted that I might not otherwise gain and would nevertheless be significantly beneficial. Other than making it less likely (I hope) that I will reoffend, yesterday’s course did not meet that criteria and the chances of my signing up for such a course under other circumstances would be nigh zero. Even so, I did learn useful things in a congenial learning environment. I hadn’t appreciated before yesterday that 20mph restrictions were such a big deal and were being widely adopted as a means to control traffic and reduce accidents, where the statistics show there haven been significant reductions when such measures have been introduced. It should be noted, when I learned to drive 20 mph hardly existed and the rule of thumb for built up areas was to drive below 30mph. The course reiterated what I have long believed to be true: people obey the rules of the road firstly in order to avoid prosecution, and since prosecution is these days a likely scenario (as I had discovered) it is well to be aware of the rules and adopt strategies for keeping them.

Over the course of my forty year driving career, I have had points added to my license on approaching a double digits number of times and I once drove for the best part of a year with the proverbial “Sword of Damleces” hanging over my head, realizing one more transgression would mean losing my license. I would like to think I am a careful driver and try to drive legally respecting other road users, but my experience yesterday made me realize even more than I did before how valuable having a driving license is and how important it is to drive responsibly. Rather than dismiss the course as merely part of my punishment, I consider the learning I gained to be valuable, although I hope that I will not have to do something similar in future, but then that is up to me and the way I drive.


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