Speed awareness courses

Speed awareness courses

Learn about speed awareness courses - who can take them, how much they cost, how they affect insurance prices and whether they improve your driving.

Key points

  • You'll only be offered an awareness course if you meet certain criteria assessed after a speeding offence
  • The course fee may be more than an alternative fine, but you can avoid getting points on your licence
  • If your insurer asks whether you've attended a course, you'll have to inform them - but not many ask
  • Insurers may subsequently raise your premium, but this may not be by as much as if you have licence points

Speeding is one of the most flouted rules in the British Road Traffic Act.

According to statistics from the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme, over 1.2 million drivers attended speed awareness courses in 2015.[1]

That was a 170% increase from 2010 when just over 447,700 motorists caught committing a minor speeding offence opted to attend a course rather than accept penalty points. So:

  • Who's eligible to take the course?
  • How does it affect your car insurance premium?
  • How does it affect your driving?

Who qualifies for a speed awareness course?

Not every speeding offence will result in the offer of an option to attend an awareness course. In fact they're only offered if:

  • You haven't been convicted of any other speeding offences in the past three years
  • You've been caught driving over 10% plus 2mph of the limit, but below 10% plus 9mph. In a 30mph zone, this means anything between 35mph and 42mph, while in a 70mph zone it means anything between 79mph and 86mphCar

In any other circumstances you'll receive a fixed penalty notice and a minimum of three licence points.

In fact, if you're driving over 10% plus 9mph you're in grave danger of receiving a court summons.

Who runs the speed awareness courses?

It's a common misconception that speed awareness courses are run by the police.

While the courses have been developed directly from the police's 1991 National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme initiative, they're actually run by regionally specific independent bodies who work alongside their local constabulary.

Course providers are all regulated by the National Association of Driver Intervention Providers and each one has calculated their own set fee for the course.

The cost of courses varies, but is likely to be in the region of £100. You can find your local course provider and learn its price here.

Options presented to you

If the police catch you driving over the limit and you're eligible according to the criteria above, they entrust the local body to contact you and offer you these options:Telematics car insurance

  • A place on a course
  • A fixed penalty fine plus driving licence points
  • The opportunity to contest the penalty in court (this should really only be considered in extreme circumstances or if you weren't driving the car yourself)

Accept the course option and, on completion, the course provider will then confirm to the police that you've participated, that you've agreed to re-evaluate your driving and that no further action is necessary.

Why take a speed awareness course over a fixed penalty?

A fixed penalty fine may be a little cheaper than the course fee, but on top of that you'll also suffer a three-point licence penalty.

Licence points increase your insurance premiums and stay with you for a minimum of four and a maximum of 11 years depending on the driving conviction.

Speeding convictions remain on your licence for the four-year minimum.

In the unfortunate event of you suffering more driving penalties over the course of three years they could add up to the maximum of 12 points, which means licence disqualification.

By accepting a place on a speed awareness course, however, your licence will remain point-free.

Do I have to inform my insurers?

While the successful completion of a speed awareness course does mean you've side-stepped a physical driving conviction, your insurance company may still want to know about this development as you broke the Road Traffic Act.Fuel cost calculator

Note that insurers will not be informed by the police or local authority of your speed awareness course completion, and you only have to declare it if asked.

The onus is on the insurer to collect all the information that they need from the consumer to provide cover, not for the consumer to declare everything that they think might be important.

"Opting for a speed awareness course means that the police do not record your speeding offence as a conviction, but you may still be required to disclose your attendance to your insurer," said Gocompare.com's Matt Oliver.

"When applying for car insurance, insurers ask if you have any motoring convictions or prosecutions. As neither of these apply to drivers who have attended a speed awareness course, the Financial Ombudsman has confirmed that drivers attending a course can honestly answer 'No' to this question.

"However, if an insurer asks specifically about attendance of a speed awareness course, then drivers must provide this information on the application form or at any other time during the lifetime of the insurance policy. Failure to do so may invalidate the insurance.

"Insurers' positions on speed awareness courses differ, with some considering attendance as information that's relevant to pricing premiums. Therefore, drivers who've attended a course may find that they have to pay more for cover - but the increase is likely to be smaller than if they had points on their licence.

"These drivers also have the option of shopping around to see if they can get a better deal elsewhere."

How will it affect my premium?

If an insurer hasn't asked whether you've attended a speed awareness course then it cannot be used as a rating factor when it comes to calculating your premium; this isn't a question asked when you apply for a quote through Gocompare.com and the insurers on our panel haven't asked for it to be in our question set.

If you apply for insurance elsewhere and do get asked this question, you should be aware - while you've made the conscious decision to accept a place on the course and to re-evaluate your driving - you've still shown a propensity to drive over the speed limit.

According to AA statistics, drivers with a single speeding conviction are 10-12% more likely to make a claim than those with a clean licence.[2]

Each insurance company will have its own underwriting criteria but, based on the AA's figures alone, it's understandable why they may be interested if you've attended a speed awareness course.

What would I actually learn from a speed awareness course?

The prospect of spending half a working day in the company of strangers in a stuffy training environment while losing earnings or holiday days may be less attractive than the course fee itself, but:

  • Courses have been structured in such a way that they genuinely open your eyes about the dangers of speeding
  • The emphasis is on education and engagement. You won't be patronised, told off or subjected to endless road safety videos

By law they can't test you, but you can be playfully quizzed on your current knowledge and challenged on how you can build on it.

  • They encourage defensive driving and increase awareness of the many obstacles and dangers drivers face every time they hit the road
  • They remind you that you've not had any other driver training or refresher courses since you originally passed your testDriving licence theory test quiz
  • Dare I say it, they're actually quite good fun…

The penultimate point is especially enduring.

On arrival attendees are invited to quiz themselves on basic Highway Code signs and warnings; you'll be surprised how much you've forgotten since you swotted for your driving theory!

Essentially the main message is this...

In the 1960s and '70s drink driving was still passed off as motoring folly and not really considered too much of a problem. Now there's such a stigma attached to it that drink driving rates have dramatically reduced.

The hope is that speed awareness courses will help towards a wider campaign to reduce driving over the limit and, essentially, help the roads become a safer place. What's more, it could even save you money by reducing your insurance premiums and motoring fuel costs.

By Dave Jenkins