BBC correspondent calls driver awareness course ‘a wasted opportunity’

12.00 | 24 June 2016 | | 3 comments

A feature on the BBC News website has cited a ‘lack of evidence’ as to the effectiveness of driver awareness courses.

The piece is authored by BBC Home Affairs correspondent Danny Shaw, who recently attended a course after being caught on CCTV camera jumping a red light.

Mr Shaw describes the ‘What’s Driving Us’ course as a “wasted opportunity” and “rather tepid”, and the course materials as “unimaginative and unconvincing”.

Mr Shaw asks: “Why weren’t we shown footage of the effects of driving through red lights, using a mobile and ignoring road signs? 

“Couldn’t we have heard from the victim of a car crash about the impact on them? Where was the account of a motoring offender who had learned the error of their ways?

“It was a chance to ram home the ramifications of careless driving and it was missed.”

Mr Shaw goes on to describe what he calls “a dearth of reliable evidence about the impact of driver awareness and speed reduction programmes” – despite the number of people attending such courses having trebled since 2010.

Referring to NDORS, the organisation that delivers the vast majority of these course, he says he is “uncertain about the evidence on its website”.

The website cites two studies, one published by the DfT in 2005 which compared those who had attended courses with those who hadn’t, and found a ‘modest improvement towards safe driving’ but did not find ‘reliable evidence that this translates into improved driving performance on the road’. 

A more recent evaluation, conducted in 2011 for ACPO (now NPCC), found ‘positive changes in attitudes’ among motorists who had been on a speed awareness course.

However, Mr Shaw says the research “relied on comparing attendees’ attitudes to driving before, immediately after the course and three months later. The response rate at the three-month point was only 31%”.

While NDORS claims that "98% of first-time offenders do not reoffend over a five-year period", Mr Shaw says “it’s not clear where those figures come from”. 

Mr Shaw concludes: “While the Ministry of Justice compiles exhaustive data on reoffending rates after community sentences and imprisonment for all types of offences, a comprehensive review of the impact of motoring courses is certainly long overdue.”

In response, a spokesperson for NDORS said: "We are delighted with the positive message that Mr Shaw gives at the end of his article. The whole point of NDORS courses are to provide drivers with knowledge so that they can make better decisions, reaffirm good driving behaviour and promote responsible use of our roads. 

"Mr Shaw clearly admits he drove through a red traffic light, which could have endangered his and other motorists lives who could have been travelling through a green light. The fact that he states he will not be driving through a red light again is a testament to the fact that to divert drivers to NDORS courses works. 

"It is a matter of opinion on what the content of the courses should be; indeed, we receive many positive emails, referencing that people have enjoyed the courses because the trainers did not lecture or make them look at photographs of traffic collisions. Opinion is a subjective matter – driving safely and not anti-socially is something we must all strive for.”



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    I have said on many occasions that research should be done to establish who taught the miscreants to drive. I am convinced that the latter were taught, (if that is the right word) by cheap downmarket instructors who delivered what they were paid for.

    Only back in March 2008, the then retired CEO of the DSA said that most driving schools were probably rubbish. But heads were buried deep into the sand and nothing was done about it by either the DfT, DSA (now DVSA) or the instructor associations.

    The EU has done much to improve the way people are trained to a higher standard, and more is – or was until Referendum result – on the timetable. Watch this space in a few years time and see a hike in the statistics.

    Russell Jones
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    The principle behind speed awareness and driver awareness courses is good and I have heard from people who have attended the courses that they have become more aware and better informed about the potential consequences of their actions. However it is rather a “captive audience” and I think the BBC Home Affairs correspondent Danny Shaw has a point in the courses not making the most of their opportunity. Perhaps NDORS schemes in general could benefit from the nudge to re-evaluate the courses along the lines suggested. No scheme is so good that it cannot be refined and improved further.

    Pat, Wales
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    Perhaps they could have shown him excerpts from ‘Motorway Cops’ or ‘Traffic Cops’ or any other of the many BBC programmes on the similar theme of road accidents and the behaviour which causes them. Or he could have watched them on iPlayer when he got back to his BBC office.

    I went on a ‘Walking along a cliff edge backwards in a strong wind awareness’ course once and was equally disappointed not to have had it spelt out to me, the dangers of this activity.

    Hugh Jones
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