London, 4 Oct 2005.
For immediate release.

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Press Release

Speed Awareness Courses "a PR Gimmick"
It was announced today that "Speed Awareness Courses" are to be offered nationwide to first time offenders caught on camera at up to 39mph in 30mph limits.
This initiative is openly presented by ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) as a response to plummeting public support for speed cameras.
"This is nothing more than a PR Gimmick from those desperate to shore up a failing road safety strategy," said the ABD's Nigel Humphries. "If these courses were any good for road safety, why have they waited until the public have turned against cameras to roll them out nationally?"
The ABD supports sensible road policing and proper driver training, but we have heard mixed reports about the content of speed awareness courses held so far by various police authorities.
The facts are that millions of motorists are being caught by cash hungry camera partnerships for driving perfectly reasonably in limits that are set far too low. These drivers are not putting anyone at risk - quite the contrary. They have only drifted over the speed limit because they are looking at the road and driving appropriately for the conditions. Meanwhile, the dangerous drivers who need to be on courses are either not being caught or are not being given the option to improve their skills!
The courses have been piloted in several police areas, and evidence suggests that some of them have little valid road safety content -with even those that are useful being tainted by the need to provide a justification to a room full of safe and sensible drivers as to why they are there at all.
"All these courses can achieve is to stop drivers looking at the road, stop them thinking about what is a safe speed to travel and make them more likely to mow down children at 30mph - its contemptible," continued Humphries. "This is just another nail in the coffin of the nation's driving skills."
What is needed is an end to sticking plaster measures to con the public into accepting speed cameras. We need to abolish the camera partnerships and get back to sensible road policing that targets dangerous drivers. These are the very drivers who need to go on credible, constructive driver improvement programmes, but these are denied focus and resources by the one trick pony of camera policy.
Below is a first hand account of a "Speed Awareness Course" which appeared in a national newspaper:
The aim (of the Avon & Somerset Speed Awareness Course), it became clear, was gradually to shepherd us round from feeling we had been unlucky to be caught, via demonstrations of how anti-social it is to speed and how effective cameras are in reducing accidents, to a profound sense of guilt.
We must learn to see that breaking the speed limit is as socially unacceptable as drink driving (not really any different, as it was put, than "going out to hit someone over the head with a baseball bat"). And we must learn to love the camera as Big Brother, there to save us from ourselves.
Most striking was the way that "speed" was defined only in terms of breaking the law by exceeding a limit. What we were sharply steered off was any discussion of how "excessive speed" might more realistically be defined as driving at a speed inappropriate to the conditions.
When we were each asked to describe how we were caught, it was clear from the replies that no one appeared to have been driving in a way which endangered themselves or anyone else. All had been driving at a speed which seemed appropriate. But even to think such thoughts is heresy.
We are all guilty. We must learn to love Big Brother.
Sunday Telegraph
Christopher Booker's notebook



Notes for Editors