ABD calls on Government to end speed awareness courses

12.00 | 21 July 2016 | | 12 comments

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’.


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    As a Police Prosecutor for specified traffic offences we so often come across people who haven’t taken up the conditional offer of a course and then beg!! for this option only to be told it`s too late. They always receive this news with disappointment and often argue it`s their right or how unfair it is etc. We point out to them it is at the discretion of the Police and that they should have responded to the conditional offer!!

    Something that the ABD have not mentioned, the offending driver can opt out of any conditional offer and plead not guilty, got to court and can still change their plea or just pay the fine. The point is the public have options and we would always encourage the educational route if possible depending on the individual’s driving history because it serves road safety, in my view. The public still don’t get off lightly because they have to pay for the course and they have to take time off work or make arrangements to attend and complete the course.

    As a Police Officer I do not know of any other course that can be attended rather than face prosecution however there are different offers of help and support for people in different situations – after all the Justice system is about reform and of course we still offer cautions and final warning to people depending on the circumstances and the crime. What ABD needs to understand is that it all costs, Education, Policing, NHS etc it just doesn’t grow on trees. If you don’t want to pay the fine don’t commit the crime.

    Daniel Holdsworth North West
    Agree (0) | Disagree (1)

    It seems that the contributors supporting the Speed Awareness, and other courses, are missing the point of the ABD campaign. From what I understand, the ABD’s campaign is not against training per-se, but is against the police being able to make money from prosecution wavers. Does anyone here know if the police profit from waivers for other types of offence?

    Charles, England
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    TTC Group(UK) PLC supports the primary principles of improving road safety through education, enforcement and engineering; and the role that awareness courses play in this. This is also reflected in the high level of positive customer feedback that is received from drivers who have participated in workshops.

    A study conducted by Aston University in conjunction with TTC showed that the speed awareness course led to very reliable improvements in attitudes towards not speeding, and more importantly their intention not to break the speed limit.

    Alan Prosser, TTC Group(UK) PLC
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    So would the ABD prefer offenders to receive points, a fine and no education?

    Clients attending Speed Awareness Courses in Greater Manchester certainly seem to support the offer of education.

    Here are some of their comments from the last week…

    • The course was enlightening, I have to drive for my work and a lot of this is motorway driving. The speeds on the roads are marked clearly when you know what you’re looking for. Thank you for the guidance, I will try to use these skills in my everyday driving.

    • I was dreading the course but was pleasantly surprised by how interesting and valuable the information provided was. The trainers made the course that little bit more interesting.

    • Trainers were helpful and friendly. They delivered the course in a light hearted manner. They answered all questions without patronising people.

    • Far more effective than points on your licence. And far more civilised.

    • The course was really positive in pointing out so many things which you take for granted and developed bad habits. It really did what it set out to do and raise awareness.

    • The Trainers were excellent, ensuring the whole course was delivered in a mood of education and direction, whilst with a strong message and without being patronising.

    • Presenters were fantastic. Their own experience as driving experts really came through and added to the messages they were giving. Great balance of humour and seriousness. Also respectful of potential for upset which we saw in the course. I can’t thank them enough.

    • To be honest, I was apprehensive about attending, and like most people, attended so I didn’t get the points on my licence. However, I actually really enjoyed the course. It made me think about things I hadn’t thought about. Most of the other people on the course had excuses for why they speed (late, not concentrating, not used to that car etc.). I didn’t. I speed because I want to get somewhere quicker. I hate wasting time. The instructor did a quick calculation regarding how much time you save by going say 10mph quicker. It was a ridiculously low amount of time for a standard journey of mine. The calculation was something I hadn’t really thought about, despite maths being “my” subject. I put it into practice last night on the way home – and I probably got home at exactly the same time as had I sped! Ben and Peter delivered the course brilliantly. I own a training company so I employ instructors myself. I’d definitely employ them if they were in my field! The downside? I may speed again in 3 years so I can attend the course again and refresh myself! (Only joking!)

    • When you have been driving for over 50 years you think you know it all and therefore can become complacent. This course gave me a new perspective and made me realise that I needed to change my mindset. Autopilot is definitely off from now on and each time I get in the car I will remember the points made by the instructors because I’ve taped a sign saying “Speed awareness course” to my dashboard. But it wasn’t just about speed, so many other points were raised such as anticipation, observation and forward thinking. I believe I will be a better driver and am glad I was given the chance to attend.

    • Very informative course, making you appreciate different aspects of driving. Instructors were very helpful, approachable and made the experience more enjoyable than anticipated.

    • I found it every useful and well worth attending the 4 hours flew by took away some useful information and drove as instructed all the way from Bolton to Wrexham this morning and found hardly any difference in time it took very surprised. Thank you!

    • The Trainers both made a difficult subject interesting and informative usign a mixture of teaching, team activities and video recordings. Enjoyed it and it kept me awake as I had already worked all day before attending.

    • Learned so much more than I expected to. Extremely worthwhile course. I believe everyone should attend a similar course every 10-12 yrs to ensure their knowledge is up to date and to keep them aware of their driving behaviours. Thank you!

    • The Trainers were very good in terms of presentation and its delivery. They were passionate and knowledgeable about the subject – kept the course on track.

    • Trainers were helpful and friendly. They delivered the course in a light hearted manner. They answered all questions without patronising people. I felt that it was a very good session, I was worried about going, but the session leaders put me at ease, they highlighted the dangers of speeding and explained speed limits and strategies which I will use in my driving. Excellent course!

    • Trainers gave excellent presentation. The course material was very good and I gained a invaluable information regarding safe driving within the speed limits.

    • I found the course useful and informative. And they presented it in a very positive way to show how important it is to do everything possible to make your driving safer. I felt very safe to share my thoughts and questions there. They valued all the class members and I think everyone found the course very valuable … I certainly did.

    Lee Davies, Scheme Manager, Greater Manchester Casualty Reduction Partnership
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    It would seem that the ABD campaign is at odds with the ABD manifesto. I am also not all that confident that the ABD have the confidence in their own convictions, so to speak, ha-ha, when they have requested comments on their campaign page.

    I made a perfectly reasonable counter-comment to a retired police officer by the name of Brookman who had apparently commented on the campaign web page. When my comment didn’t appear after a reasonable time for moderation I asked why it had not been published. Roger Lawson sent the email below in response to my question:
    Roger Lawson18 jul. at 08:53
    Dear Mr Stringfellow,
    Your comments were not published on our blog because the blog is monitored and we will not publish comments that are irrelevant to the issues raised by the AMPOW campaign. Namely the abuse of police powers and general illegality that has crept in to the use of speed awareness courses.

    The ABD has of course made numerous suggestions about how road safety could be improved, but spending more money on speed cameras is not one of them.
    Roger Lawson
    Campaign Director
    The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD)
    PO Box 62, Chislehurst, BR7 5YB
    Tel: 020-8295-0378
    Email: roger.lawson@abd.org.uk
    Web: http://www.speed-awareness.org
    ABD – The Voice of the Driver
    I believe that Lawson has simply put Mr Brookman’s comments on as an editorial contribution from one of his pet retired officers. The comments are sparse and are most certainly not open.

    I am stunned at the thrust of the ABD campaign given their manifesto which in part has training and education sections within it, I copy it below. It does seem that their education and training manifesto has been largely met by the provision of speed awareness courses; maybe Mr Lawson is upset that his membership and his own efforts didn’t come up with a way to implement their manifesto like NDORS has done in part…and all this with the police, government and public consent and satisfaction.

    While it is clear and more importantly ‘open’ that the police do claim some of the course fees back, the police do so to cover the cost of the enforcement and to renew their equipment. Yes they do also fund new equipment but there isn’t a mass break-out of speed enforcement cameras that seems to be claimed by the ABD. Further to this why on earth should the public pay taxes to fund this and the police put themselves at severe financial risk to enforce the speed limits? What a shame that similar funding cannot be found for other routine police activities that can relieve a burden on public funds.

    The ABD claim that the police only concentrate on speeding. That is very, very wrong. The use of civilian staff in the police, the police call them police staff, in speed enforcement takes the majority of the speed management responsibility from traffic officers who are freed up to concentrate of the offences that the ABD say are not being enforced. Not only that but it is possible for the funds reclaimed by the police to pay for equipment to find other road safety related equipment. Whether that is done I cannot say but it could be.

    You never know; If I could be bothered to read the rest of the ABD manifesto this funding could also be enabling points in that to be implemented at no cost to public funds. The only people paying are those who volunteer funding to get some education and avoid a fixed penalty or court awarded penalties when they fully accept that they have erred in their speed control. If they want to avoid contributing to the NDORS course, then they are free to accept a fixed penalty or a court appearance.

    I think my contribution is long enough now so I will leave you with the ABD manifesto on Education and Training and see if you think the ABD are well served by this campaign to return to compulsory penalty points and fines or indeed in the worst case, no speed enforcement at all…hey! Maybe that is the object of the campaign.

    Extract of ABD manifesto:

    1. Incentives should be given for those who pass an advanced driving test. We favour the ‘positive points’ approach.
    2. Every driver should have the opportunity to have their driving assessed by a professional observer free of charge. This should be encouraged on a five yearly basis.
    3. Police officers should be given powers to send any driver they judge to be severely lacking in necessary skills on a training course.
    4. Training courses should be given to those whose lack of driving skills has been shown to have contributed to accidents.
    5. New drivers should be encouraged to take an advanced level test within 18 months of their initial test pass (advanced meaning higher standard and does not refer to existing advanced courses although it would be anticipated to be to of similar level of competence)
    6. The importance of driver training in reducing congestion to be recognised.
    7. Training courses should be offered as an alternative to penalty points for some offences.
    8. Any courses offered as alternatives to penalty points must consist of proper hazard awareness and anticipation training and must not be just lectures on the importance of keeping to speed limits.
    9. A new body to be set up to cater for the extra training demand (IAM/RoADA/DSA/Commercial Organisation/Police involvement?).
    10. ‘P’ plates to be compulsory for one year after passing basic test or until advanced level test is passed.
    1. Driver training to be placed on the national curriculum. Every town should have at least one practice track. In many cases a school playground and playing field could be adapted to provide simulated road conditions. End of life vehicles could be used, restored by school engineering workshops to give pupils practice and insight into vehicle mechanics. This would also help reduce the skills shortage in engineering trades.
    2. A Buy on-line at amazon copy of the highway code should be sent to every household in the UK — to be financed by sponsorship, advertising.
    3. Education campaigns on television and other media should be introduced on all aspects of road use. In particular: (For Drivers) The importance of always driving at a speed where one can safely stop within the distance seen to be clear. How to look out for and help ensure the safety of vulnerable road users. Correct positioning to see and be seen (for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists). Lane discipline and correct slip road usage on motorways. Correct practice for negotiating roundabouts. General hazard anticipation and the dangers of distraction and tiredness.
    4. A concerted effort to be made by the authorities to encourage drivers to take a pride in honing their driving skills.
    5. Simple ‘Always keep left unless overtaking!’ signs to be affixed to motorway bridges at regular intervals
    (For other road users) All pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders should be provided with appropriate education on safe road use. This should be a mandatory part of the school curriculum and backed up by heavy press and television advertising
    Source: http://www.abd.org.uk/about/manifesto

    Alan, Northern England
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    It’s a popular misconception that enforcement activity must mean activities resulting in, or intending to result in, prosecution. That’s just one possible outcome. Police have always legitimately engaged in educational activities at the roadside, and still do, but what these courses offer is an enhancement of a ‘talking to’, elevating the quiet word into a properly managed and developed educational format. It’s entirely legitimate for an enforcement process to have a better informed driver as an outcome. Far from being an aberration of due process, these courses represent a natural enhancement of it.

    Prosecution remains an available option of course and no driver is coerced into the educational route. Far from being a bribe the course prices are well within the ball park of the fine and when time off to attend is accounted for they look like anything other than a soft option. I would like to think that in electing to attend these course motorists are showing some smart thinking – if you pay for a course you are paying for a service. It’s a trade and the motorist derives a benefit. By contrast I’d struggle to see what is the attraction of paying out the same money for the privilege of points on your licence. And yet the manifesto of the ABD suggests that their offer to motorists (and not just their niche membership) is to have both. If courses were an outcome of the prosecution process then I think we’d have to assume that course attendees would be a captive audience, potentially reducing the educational impact and having who knows what effect on the price charged for the service.

    As for the ways in which recovered administration costs are used, that’s a matter for individual forces. But it’s worth noting that if the assertion of the ABD is correct and “They generate a surplus which finances more cameras, more staff to operate them etc” then that’s a closed financial model and there is no material benefit to the police. Of course more effective enforcement is undertaken without diminishing resources available for preventing and investigating ‘proper crimes’ – and I’m guessing there’s a sizeable constituency out there in favour of that.

    This is a poorly thought out campaign, doubtless satisfying to execute but without any objective merit.

    Jeremy, Devon
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Comments from the ABD Campaign Director:
    NDORS claim “that the provision of ….educational courses has been deemed lawful”. But all they have done is obtained a QC’s opinion. That does not make it lawful, and we have also taken a QC’s opinion and ours gave a contrary opinion.

    They also repeat the false allegation that all the police recover is their administration costs which is definitely wrong. They generate a surplus which finances more cameras, more staff to operate them, etc. It’s a money making scheme in essence.

    Our manifesto advocates the offer of training courses as an alternative to other penalties after conviction, not for the police to tout waivers to collect money. Nowhere do we support that the police should profit from waiving prosecution.

    Roger Lawson, London
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    There’s quite a few, and if I recall correctly, attending one in a 3 year period does not block you from attending any of the others(!) IE, you can go on a speeding awareness course, as well as a minor careless driving awareness course, if offered it on separate occasions

    Full list is here: https://ndors.org.uk/courses

    David Weston, Corby
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Do the ABD have an alternative system of driver education ready to be put in place? It’s an easy life for pressure groups and campaigners – they don’t actually have to do anything, they just sit back and criticise when others actually do try and do something.
    If the ABD are genuinely interested in driver education, could they not make better use of their resources and their profile by encouraging the ‘private motorists in the UK’ not to speed in the first place, like the majority of motorists already do? Or is that too easy and too obvious? It would leave them with nothing for them to get worked up about I suppose. 200 signatories already? Gosh..well as they say, it’s early days.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Thanks for educating me David, I didn’t know they existed. By anti social driving I meant tailgating, middle lane hogging and other everyday dangerous behaviour without having to list them all.

    Steve Armstrong, Halifax UK.
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Steve, NDORS offers several different courses, including as you’ve mentioned, mobile and phone use and “anti-social driving”, what ever on earth that is supposed to mean.

    In my opinion the £35 or so the originating police force receives from awareness courses should be scrapped – and potentially alternative funding put in its place from Central Government.

    (I say this as a hypocrite of course – I recently enjoyed a free driver review + skid pan day, most likely paid by the folks who attended awareness courses in my county!)

    David Weston, Corby
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I would have to agree that the speed awareness courses are a step in the right direction and are on the whole a good idea which I would wholeheartedly support. My only concern is that the police are making such a profit out of running them it enables them to buy more camera equipment and therefore a small “industry” is created. These schemes should also not be ringfenced for speeding but also extended to mobile phone use and other antisocial behaviour on our roads, which the chances of being caught are so vanishingly small it makes laws all but useless.

    Steve Armstrong, Halifax UK.
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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