Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Neville’s Blog: My day as a criminal……

Neville’s Blog

Names have been changed to protect the guilty

“A long journey, a clear night, an open road. There’s a long straight hill on the A1 just south of Grantham. The speedo hits 80 and Flash – I am nicked by the Lincolnshire Police.

A few weeks later a letter with an offer I can’t refuse – a £100 fine and three points on the licence or pay £95 to attend a half day Speed Awareness Course. And so it was that I find myself at Brentwood Adult Education Centre on a Tuesday afternoon.

The cafe is crowded – Coffee please I say – “ Certainly Sir – its free if you are on the course – or £95” she says with a wink. Even the staff are in on the joke.

How many of these people are fellow crims I wonder – that middle class bloke with a cravat?– no he’s here for the art class. That young Asian guy? – maybe, The three old girls? – no that’s the embroidery session. The 3 hard looking thirty year olds? – definitely. ”This way for the Speed Awareness Course please” – and everybody in the cafe gets up and walks the walk of shame to the classroom of humiliation.

When we get there our cheery tutors David and John spell out the rules- strictly prescribed by Essex Police. No Mobile phones, no recording devices. If you leave you fail. If you don’t come back after break you fail, if you are ill and don’t provide a doctors certificate you fail – all of which will lead to the fine and 3 points on top of the aforementioned £95.

After which they explain that we are not here to be punished – we are here to learn about speed and why it kills. We get a chance to tell our stories. Some are more aggrieved than others “I was only doing 38”, ”I was just keeping up with the traffic”, “The road was clear and it was safe” (That was me by the way). There are some funny stories. Steve has only been in the country for a few months – he got nicked on the road where he lives where he didn’t know there was a speed limit or a camera. His last job was a Detroit Police Officer and pursuit driver. He has handed out thousands of speeding tickets in his life. Why are you here Steve? “I have no idea” he says in a slow mid west drawl “I deliver these courses to college kids – my wife has emailed all my friends about this – man I am never going back to the states”.

Brian is really cheesed off ”52 years I’ve been driving and never been stopped in my life – you should meet my brother in law – he’s a nightmare – always drives at exactly the speed limit” “And he’s not here today?” questions tutor Dave These guys know their stuff and after a few years of delivering the course there isn’t a snappy excuse or careworn dismissal that they can’t handle. They know their stuff too- both of them apparently being able to discuss any traffic scheme in Greater London and Essex.

A lot of the interesting stuff was about statistics. If you are overtaking a bus stop at 30mph as you are level with the back of the bus a kid runs out at the front – how far along the bus will you be when you stop? It’s a trick question – you won’t stop in time – it’s just a matter of whether you hit the kid. At 30mph there is a 20% chance the kid will be dead. At 40mph its 80%.

One guy said that it annoyed him when people pulled in front of him on the motorway so he had to speed and tailgate to stop it happening. They did the maths – travelling at 70mph even letting 6 people cut you up is going to increase your journey time by about 20 seconds.

Back on the A1 travelling at 70 instead of 80 will add 30 minutes onto my onto my 4 hour journey but I won’t be getting nicked again.

You’d be surprised how few speed cameras there are in Essex, and even more surprised how few have actual working cameras but that’s not the point. The technology is improving and the roads are getting busier.

Average speed cameras can’t be beat and they are cheaper to operate than static flash cameras. Cars are getting safer but only for the passengers – the death toll on our roads is still depressingly high.

To finish the afternoon some churning videos of people who had lost relatives on the roads and a brief discussion. Dave and John are steadfast. It used to be acceptable to drink a few pints and drive home, it used to be acceptable to not wear a seat belt, and it used to be acceptable to smoke in pubs. Now it isn’t and soon attitudes to speeding will change too.

5pm and smiles all round, I shook hands with Dave and John- happy to be released from a thoroughly informative and thought provoking afternoon with too brilliant presenters. And what about my driving? Well yes – I have changed my attitude to speed and am trying to stay within the limits – not just because I might get nicked again but because I recognise that speed kills and it’s just another part of trying to do the right thing.

And what about my fellow course members? I don’t know. I suspect some of them will walk out unchanged but whatever their attitude, the facts speak for themselves;- six motorcyclists were killed in road crashes during 2011, with 17 drivers, seven passengers, 10 pedestrians and one cyclist also dying on the county’s roads. In 2011, 3,800 people were injured in collisions with 670 of those being classed as serious*. 41 deaths and 670 serious injuries! Every one a personal and family tragedy. I just don’t want to have anything to do with any of those stats.

*Source – Essex police quoted on www.thisistotalessex.com

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