Drivers less likely to reoffend after speeding course, study finds

14.47 | 14 May 2018 | | 9 comments

New research shows drivers who take a speed awareness course are as much as 23% less likely to reoffend in the six months after a first offence, compared to those who accept the fine and points.

Published by the DfT today (14 May), the study – carried out by IPSOS Mori and the University of Leeds – used speed offending data made available by 13 police forces in England for the period from 2012 to 2017.

Data was provided for 2.2m drivers, of whom 1.4m had opted to participate in the National Speed Awareness Course (NSAC).

The study found that drivers who attend the NSAC are between 12-23% less likely to reoffend within six months of committing their first offence – a figure which drops to 9-17% within 12 months, 9-11% within the first two-years, and 6-13% within three years.

The NSAC is offered to motorists who commit low level speeding offences as an alternative to a fine and three points on their licence. In 2017, 1,195,356 offenders attended the course, which costs £100.

Jesse Norman, roads minister, told RAC News that the study shows the NSAC is ‘clearly working well in preventing drivers from putting other road users at risk by breaking speed limits’.

Road Safety GB has welcomed the findings, saying that speed awareness courses can help drivers who have “made a genuine mistake or error in judgement”.

Steve Horton, Road safety GB director of communications, said: “Most drivers who accept the opportunity to take a speed awareness course are likely to have made a genuine mistake or error in judgement; perhaps they struggle to work out what the speed limit is for the road they are on, perhaps they just don’t appreciate the significant impact on severity that even small increases in speed could have in a crash, or perhaps they were just driving on habit.

“In the main these ‘error makers’ can benefit from reasoned discussion to reflect on how they drive or from help to interpret the rules that identify speed limits. The research here shows that when this is done well ‘error makers’ can make their own choice to adapt their behaviour and better avoid breaking speed limits.

“Whilst speed isn’t the only risk factor in driving, there is no doubt that if you crash then the faster you travel the harder you will hit, so the basics of adhering to legal limits is the very least we should be doing to support safer roads. Once the limit is accepted, then it frees up drivers to judge the appropriateness of their speed for time and place.”

David Davies, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Road Safety (PACTS), told RAC News: “These findings are a win-win for motorists and for road safety. We knew that drivers who attended speed awareness courses found them useful and preferred them to penalty points which have no educational value.

“Now we know that speed awareness courses also have bigger safety benefits.”

The Alliance of British Drivers, however, says the report shows ‘no benefit from speed awareness courses’.

The lobbying group points to a ‘key statement’ in the executive summary which says “this study did not find that participation in NSAC had a statistically significant effect on the number or severity of injury collisions”.

In a typically robust media statement the Alliance of British Drivers goes on to say that “this unethical and legally dubious diversion of drivers to speed awareness courses is primarily about generating money, not about road safety because there is no evidence of any real benefit”.


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    The comments about using RCTs to measure the impact of a public health measure are misinformed. While their use in clinical trials (notably for new medicines) is appropriate, their use in this field poses huge questions about ethics as well as technical problems in implementing them.

    There are plenty of other evaluation techniques that aren’t an RCT but are still valid. I would be interested to hear specific details on why the approach used here is not valid as it seems to be a of a very high quality and possibly the most robust analysis we have ever seen in this field.

    Simon Jones
    Agree (4) | Disagree (3)

    The report actually says the ‘..NSAC was not designed to reduce collisions’ not ‘casualties’ and qualifies that by saying: ‘Improved compliance with speed limits is expected to lead to further benefits for individuals and society as the literature establishes a link between higher speeds and more frequent/severe accidents’.

    I think the implication from that is that they accept collisions will still happen, but colliding at lower speeds should result in fewer or lesser injuries and deaths. That to me is the wrong conclusion, the wrong aim and the wrong attitude….more compliance with speed limits AND driving at safer (i.e. in full control) speeds following attendance on such courses, will result in fewer collision per se and inevitably therefore, fewer casualties, (not to mention a less stressful environment for slower road uses and residents).

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

    The report itself states that NSAC was not designed to reduce casualties.
    Then maybe someone can explain what purpose it has?

    I would suggest the report clearly shows what learning has taken place;
    Don’t get caught speeding as it will cost you somewhere in the region of £100 possibly with the added cost of taking half a day of your life to attend a course.
    Maybe it teaches that next time you are caught you will not be offered a course.

    Those are not great outcomes for a course that goes into great detail about speeding, crashes and injury data.

    s, bristol
    Agree (5) | Disagree (7)

    As usual Hugh you have said it like it is.

    I spent many years delivering speed awareness courses with TTC and DriveSafe.

    Clients who knew someone who’d been on such a course were looking forward to it and the most common remark at the end was “Everyone should go on this course – without having to be caught speeding.”

    As a grade 6 ADI and Fleet Registered Driver Trainer I was lucky enough to do this in the good old days when we had an on road practical element and, without exception, our clients told us “This was the best part because you can put the classroom session into practice with guidance on what to do.”

    After they’d had two hours in the classroom I would normally take two clients in my dual controlled car to assess each of their drives, then give them a demo drive with commentary, discuss how they could improve and then give them opportunities to put new ideas into use with a third drive to reassess their development. Therefore, as you say Hugh, it was about a lot more than keeping to the speed limit.

    We used to promote the COAST system but essentially it was a coaching session encouraging them to see what they were doing well, what they weren’t, and, wherever possible, getting the clients themselves to come up with what they needed to change to be safer.

    David, Wirral
    Agree (12) | Disagree (3)

    The Alliance of British Drivers never seem to provide evidence for their dubious assertions and claims either. Rhetoric, with an indignant tone, seems to be the currency of lobbying groups generally.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (16) | Disagree (4)

    Private companies are required, I believe, to provide robust evidence to support any claims made for their safety products/services. Why is it then that authorities do not need to provide similarly high standards of evidence for the safety products/services that they sell to us?

    When assessing effectiveness for NSAC (or any other intervention), every factor that might influence the result has to be acounted for. There are several options:

    1) run RCT scientific trials
    2) measure and exclude all other factors
    3) estimate and exclude all other factors
    4) measure and exclude all major factors
    5) estimate and exclude all major factors

    The DfT appear not to have done any of the above.

    Eg consider 2 groups of drivers:

    1) High mileage
    2) Low mileage

    Group 1 might be expected to get caught speeding more often than group 2, especially as group 2 might generally drive local roads and become familiar with where the cameras might be. Furthermore, group 2 may be less likely to be available during the day to attend a NSAC.

    I could find no mention anywhere in the report of annual average mileages and yet this could explain the reports results, with the NSAC having no influence whatsoever.

    Shouldn’t we demand that the authorities comply with the same high standards of evidence that they enforce on others?

    dave finney, Slough
    Agree (16) | Disagree (8)

    Although the offence which triggers attendance on the course is speeding, speeders’ standard of driving tends to be compromised across the board and a more general ‘driver improvement course’ might be the order of the day. This could cover too close following; creating a safety space; vehicle control; observation; anticipation; etc. etc. In fact such a course might better be called ‘How not to be involved in a road collision’ or ‘How to be a smarter driver’ which might have more appeal for the resentful offender.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (3) | Disagree (10)

    It is interesting to note that when you try to establish the cost of courses form TTC for the National Speed Awareness course for your area it is very difficult to find them.

    However, you can wait on their telephone line for 20 minutes to ask for the fee, or you seem to be able to go through the booking process to find out.

    Also from 2017 “A CHANGE in Gloucestershire’s speed awareness course provider will lead to lower prices and further training centres”.
    Although it would seem that the price increased from what I have been informed.

    Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

    I’ve not experienced a speed awareness course but most comments from friends who have been on one say they found them informative and thought provoking. If that helps some drivers to comply with speed limits more often i.e. modify behaviour, then carry on with them.

    Ditto the drink driver rehab courses attendance that can cut a couple of months off a driving disqualification. Punishment with education is better than punishment alone.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (23) | Disagree (2)

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