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Taxi Noir: The Speed Awareness Course

Speed-Limit
Speed-Limit

If you’re not familiar with the Speed Awareness Course, you’re lucky. A Speed Awareness Course is something you can usually opt to take instead of receiving a speeding fine and points on your licence. No, I haven’t been nabbed recently, but I’ve taken two courses in my time, so I write as an interested party.

Both the speeding courses I attended were quite informative and interesting. My first course was taken in 2010 when I was working as a cab driver in London, commuting from Northampton. I was rushing home with a KFC Bargain Bucket on that fateful evening, trying to prevent my chicken from going cold.

We were booked in for the best part of a day, with the pace directed by the course tutor. There were a few jokers in the group, so we had a bit of a laugh while we learnt something useful. Was I deterred from speeding? From knowingly exceeding speed limits, yes; but it’s easy to accidentally exceed limits, especially when the limits change between 30 and 40 mph numerous times on the same road (we now have 20 mph limits to worry about too).

Speed-Camera-sign
Speed-Camera-sign

Shortly after this incident, they turned off all the speed cameras in Northamptonshire to save money. I assumed they’d also turned the cameras off in Bedfordshire when I moved to Leighton Buzzard in 2015. I just wasn’t careful enough when I was filmed driving at 48 miles per hour in a 40mph limit through Dunstable as I drove home from London one evening. I had the choice of a £100 fine and points on my licence, or to attend a Speed Awareness Course at my own expense.

I understand you can now sometimes choose to take the course on-line. It might suit some people to treat the course as a chore and bang it out as quickly as possible on your home computer, but some folk would prefer to present themselves in person and to fit the course around their holiday plans. I believe you can book a course in any location you want to. At first I thought I might like to book a seaside visit to Devon around it, or a nice weekend in Yorkshire. Thinking more deeply, it wouldn’t really be fair on my wife to leave her to amuse herself for several hours while I attend a lecture on road signs.

I decided to go somewhere on my own, nearer to home. So, I found myself in an office block in Newport Pagnell one Sunday morning. Proceedings commenced dead on 8am. Talk about speeding: the trainer clearly wanted this event over with as quickly as possible, and spoke so fast it was hard to keep up. He set a challenge: if any of us could correctly identify the speed limits on various classes of roads, we could go home at coffee break. None of us managed it. It took me the full four hours to get into my head the difference between a single and a double carriageway. The speed limit on a dual carriageway is 70mph unless otherwise indicated; but what looks like a dual carriageway is actually a single carriageway if there’s no central reservation.

Do you get irritated by the constant changes in speed limits on smart motorways? The red-circled speed limit signs aren’t triggered by a person, but are set automatically by radar in the cats’ eyes. Rather than having everyone come to a halt on a congested motorway, the system merely slows you down. The idea being that you progress smoothly through.

Traffic-Cop
Traffic-Cop

 

I learned that we concentrate for about fifteen minutes in every driving hour, and that we tend to drive faster if the music we are playing is faster than our heartbeat. The trainer assured us that we should be OK with Coldplay. I suspect I was blasting out Motorhead on that fateful day in 2017.

The course did its job: I try to drive more carefully, and I’m thinking of switching to Classic FM.