Road safety awareness


A friend has been summoned to a road safety awareness course in lieu of three points on his licence.

Three years ago I attended one myself having been gunned at 36mph in a 30mph limit. I am usually scrupulous about town and village speed limits but I was in my old 911 and having a ball on the way back from a particularly good lunch with Nick Faure and saw the speed limit sign a fraction too late to shed all the speed before I reached it: half a second later and I’d have been fine.

Five minutes into the course I wished I’d taken the points. I had to wear a big orange sign bearing my name and, despite it saying ‘Andrew’ quite clearly, the nauseatingly cheerful Brian whose course it was insisted on calling me Andy and his congregation of offenders ‘gang’. I think his aim was to patronize us into penitence. He told us he wasn’t there to point his finger at us before doing precisely that, but the moment that most made me wonder how his appearance might be improved by the addition of my fist to his nose was when he introduced the coursework with the phrase ‘let’s see if we can have some fun with this.’ Gang.

I now loathed Brian with the same intensity I’d once reserved for the lobotomised gorilla whose daily delight at school was to return my bed to its vertical storage position in the wall with me still in it.

So it took quite a while for the mist to clear sufficiently for me to realise that Brian was actually starting to say some quite interesting things. He told me the true cost of a fatal road accident was around £1.8 million and that the average age of someone killed on a motorbike is not 22 but 46.

We were then forced to run through all the physical, mental, social, emotional and financial consequences not only for us, but for our loved ones of causing such an accident. Finally we were shown some truly harrowing photographs of crash scenes where fatalities had occurred. It was sobering stuff.

What was less clear is why on earth Brian was sharing it all with us. Looking around the room, the large majority of attendees were either elderly or in late middle age with slightly more women than men. When a few of us volunteered to tell the sorry story that had brought us to that room, all spoke of tiny transgressions, none wilfully committed. And that is only to be expected: we were a room full of people who’d only been allowed on the course because ours were the most minor of offences. The real villains who tear through villages at double the speed limit, or drive when drunk and who are responsible for the contents of those photographs were, of course, nowhere to be seen.

I left convinced the value of the course had been to keep the points off my licence and no more. I considered it well intended but fundamentally flawed on account of being aimed at entirely the wrong group of people.

And that is what I continued to think until my chum asked me whether he should bother taking up his offer of a course. Only then did I focus on the fact that never having had a clean licence up until I went on mine, in the three years since I’ve not had a single point. In my line of work, that’s a reasonable achievement. Coincidence? Perhaps. But then again maybe not: hate to admit it though I do, it now seems at least possible that Brian may have had a point and, on some subliminal level I failed to appreciate at the time, it got through.

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