The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has launched what it is describing as a ‘campaign against the misuse of speed awareness courses’, but its claims have been strongly refuted by NDORS and Road Safety GB.
The ABD, which claims to ‘represent the interests of private motorists in the UK’, says that by offering the courses as an alternative to prosecution for speeding and other offences, the police are ‘distorting road safety policy’.
The website set up to support the campaign, named ANPOW (Against the Misuse of Police Waivers), says: “The police should not be accepting bribes to waive prosecution by offering you a speed awareness course.”
A spokesperson for the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) said the courses are set up to improve road safety and reduce casualties, and that it will "robustly defend the scheme should we receive a legal challenge".
The ABD claims there is no statutory support for the courses and says it is ‘a perversion of justice for the police to waive prosecution on the basis of money being paid to them’.
The pressure group goes on to say there is ‘no hard evidence that putting people through a speed-awareness course has any impact on their subsequent accident record, or behaviour in general’.
The ABD is calling on the Government to ‘put a stop to these arrangements forthwith’, and says it will consider a legal challenge if it does not do so.
A spokesperson for NDORS said: “The National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) was established to offer motorists an alternative to prosecution for a number of offences, not just for speeding. The primary purpose of the courses is to improve road safety and reduce the number of people who are killed and seriously injured on our roads.
"The courses are highly popular with the public. It is disappointing, therefore, that the ABD is seeking to deny the public access to these excellent courses which are recognised as offering high quality, and often enjoyable, reminders of the road skills required by drivers today.
“There is evidence that the courses improve drivers’ awareness; this then improves the drivers’ ability to make more informed decisions. A further formal and academic analysis, funded by the DfT, is already underway.
"We question the motivation of this small and unrepresentative drivers’ group that seeks to deny the average motorist access to the courses, which are fully supported by the majority of motorist organisations and road safety groups.
"We believe that attending a course and improving road safety and a driver’s awareness leads to a greater benefit for society than being prosecuted and receiving penalty points.
“The provision of academically validated educational courses has been deemed lawful, following advice from a leading criminal barrister that diversion to awareness and education is a lawful substitute for criminal prosecution.
“The cost recovery model ensures that the police receive their administration costs from the scheme. If a police force chooses to use this income to update or replace equipment or place road safety cameras by the road side, it is their decision to make at a local level.
"Police officers cannot make the decision by the roadside to offer a course to an offender; this decision is taken later in the process when all relevant factors have been taken into consideration. The scheme allows a police officer’s discretion to be extended only to those who have committed low level motoring offences and who, otherwise, would be prosecuted.
"It is anomalous that the ABD, an organisation with a published stated objective – ‘Training courses should be offered as an alternative to penalty points for some offences’ – is seeking to remove that choice from the very motorists it claims to support (http://www.abd.org.uk/about/manifesto).
"We will robustly defend the offering of courses should this be challenged in court.”
Responding to the ABD claims, Iain Temperton, Road Safety GB director of communications, said: “The opportunity to directly educate a significant number of the driving public should not be underestimated.
“15 years ago a frustration of the road safety professional was that we could not get to converse with ‘the average driver’ for any length of time; the introduction of speed awareness and other similar courses gives us the opportunity to do so.
“Road Safety GB fully supports the concept and practice of these schemes and will continue to explore how education can be used to benefit all road users.”
The ANPOW campaign website includes a petition for members of the public to register their support for the campaign, and a document that ‘gives all the evidence on what has been happening and why it is illegal’.
Roger Lawson, ABD spokesman, says that as of 20 July around 200 people have signed the petition, but points out that the campaign is in its ‘early days’.