My speedy ticket back to the classroom
By Lyndsey Hunt (Express & Star)
Hundreds of speed cameras line the footpaths, grass verges and roadsides of Staffordshire. Camera number 96, on the A34 Stafford Road, at Newtown, caught me doing 39mph on a 30mph stretch.
I saw it flash, cursed my bad luck and crossed my fingers hoping there was no film inside the drab grey box.
Within a fortnight Staffordshire Police sent me a conditional fixed penalty offer of a £60 fine and three points on my clean licence.
I reluctantly accepted the “offer” – the alternative was to go to court – and resigned myself to paying for it annually when I renewed my car insurance until the points were spent after three years.
I was surprised to then be offered a place on a speed awareness course run by Staffordshire County Council in partnership with the police force.
The day-long session at Staffordshire Technology Park, Beaconside, Stafford, would cost me £95 and replace a prosecution. Around 1,500 people have attended 96 courses since its launch in the county last April. The trial scheme is currently offered to drivers with a clean licence, caught speeding up to 39mph in a 30mph zone only.
I thought the £35 difference between the fine and course fee worth paying to avoid years of potentially high insurance premiums.
I joined three other women and 10 men in the classroom.
There sat people from all walks of life, including a pensioner, plasterer, engineer, self-employed businessmen, and tow taxi drivers and working mums. All had been caught speeding at between 35-39mph.
One man, who was clearly aggrieved at being on the course, said he did not view driving at four or five miles above the limit as speeding.
We had chosen to attend the course, and wanted to crack on.
Advanced driving instructor and course tutor Danny Kharbanda had seemingly heard the pensioner’s moans before and politely told him he was not the right man and it was not the right time to discuss the sense behind speed limits or cameras.
Danny then led we speeders through the reasons why people break the limit and the consequences of doing so. We did a little group work, spotting traffic hazards on photographs, before having our all-inclusive buffet lunch and taking to the road for the afternoon session.
We were paired off and taken out by an instructor for several hours of putting theory into practice.
I drove Danny’s Rover 25 through the country lanes of Creswell and Great Bridgeford, near Stafford, and into Stone, while others went further afield to Lichfield, Armitage and Rugeley.
I felt drained at the end of the day but had learned a lot and passed the course.