It’s been a long week at work and the road home seems to have got longer and longer every single day.
As you roll to a stop behind yet another set of glowing red lights, the first hints of frustration start to creep in. Hands clenched on the wheel, comments muttered at other road users and exasperated sighs shot at any minor motoring mistake.
When you finally get a clear bit of tarmac ahead of you, your foot feels heavier and the needle on the speedometer creeps up.
Then you feel it, the hot white flash of a GATSO speed camera. A couple weeks later, three penalty points land on your license and a fine arrives on your doorstep.
In Scotland, that’s been the story for as long as we can remember. You speed, you get points and a fine.
However, that could all be about to change.
Recently, there’s been calls for the Scottish Government to follow the lead of our southern neighbours and introduce speed awareness courses as an alternative to traditional penalties.
What is a speed awareness course?
Under the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme, motorists in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can opt to attend a speed awareness course instead of receiving penalty points and fines.
While each police force commissions their own particular course, they share the same aim: to encourage drivers to alter their attitudes towards excessive speed.
Since speed courses were introduced down south, they have proved immensely popular with motorists.
Drivers opted for a speed awareness course in 2015
Drivers charged with speeding in Scotland in 2015
Speeding, which accounts for approximately 30% of all motor vehicle offences in Scotland, has been slowly declining over the years. In 2013-14, over 80,000 people were caught exceeding the speed limit. The next year, this fell by 25% to 61,000.
Despite the steady decline in recorded speeding offences, speeding remains a key concern for Scotland’s roads and we, for one, welcome any additional measures to help decrease the occurrence of speeding even more.
Coming to a road near you?
Ever since speed courses have been offered down south, there have been campaigns to bring them to Scotland. The most recent comes from MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife Murdo Fraser.
Speaking to the Courier, Mr Fraser explained why he believed the time was right for speed awareness courses.
The Scottish Government has been sitting on the idea of introducing speed awareness courses for a number of years and it’s time we had some action on this front,” said the MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife.
Speed awareness courses are proven to have a long-term impact in correcting the behaviour of drivers and serve as an important educational tool in reducing dangerous driving.
The A9 is one of Scotland’s most dangerous roads with thousands of people caught speeding on the route each year.
Instead of fines and points it would be interesting to note the impact that these courses could have in improving driver behaviour.
In remote areas it would be a huge benefit for drivers to take the course rather than receive penalty points, which could lead to someone losing their licence.
People who have taken these courses have praised their content and there is no doubt it makes them better and safer drivers. It’s now time to take action, so Scotland is not lagging behind the rest of the UK.
Does the public want a change?
Earlier this week, we asked the public whether speed awareness courses be offered as an alternative to points and fines for speeding charges. This is what they told us.
While our results seem rather one-sided, previous campaigns have provoked a backlash from a vocal minority.
Amongst a generally positive reception, this petition from Glasgow-based solicitor Graham Walker elicited a number of highly critical responses.
One commenter on Facebook wrote:
Drivers are well aware of the speeding laws where they live. If you break it, then be prepared to pay the consequences, no matter what the laws are elsewhere!
Unfortunately, this comment seems to miss the point. Speed awareness courses aren’t about sparing speeding drivers the prescribed consequences.
They are about swapping the punishment for something that delivers long-term change to a motorist’s behaviour — something that fines and penalty points simply may not be able to do.