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Insurers should recognise safety contribution of speed awareness courses
The AA has reacted with astonishment at news1 that at least one motor insurer increases its customers’ car insurance premiums if they have attended a speed awareness course, treating them in a similar way to those accepting a statutory three-point penalty and £60 fine.
Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance says: “The view of most insurers, including the AA, is that attending a course is a responsible approach and should not be penalised by increasing premiums in the same way as a fixed penalty. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that insurers have a moral responsibility to encourage drivers to take actions that will reduce their risk of causing accidents”
Speed awareness courses are offered by police forces for minor speed infringements and typically cost around £90. More serious motoring offenders are not offered them while those who go on to re-offend can’t take a second course for three years.
Mr Douglas points out that drivers who have a single speeding conviction are 10% to 12% more likely to make a claim than those who have a clean licence2.
attending a course is a responsible approach and should not be penalised by increasing premiums in the same way as a fixed penalty
Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance
“Offenders who have not seriously exceeded the speed limit can expect to be offered a speed awareness course and there is considerable evidence that doing so changes driver attitudes and makes them less likely to both re-offend or claim.
“However, offend again and that good work is undone: drivers won’t get a second chance to attend a course for some time,” says Mr Douglas. “Second speed offenders are 18% more likely to make a claim2 following a crash than a driver with just one offence.”
According to an AA/Populus poll of 11,548 AA members3, 86% agreed that driver improvement courses should be offered as an alternative to prosecution. 71% thought that such courses should be offered for minor speeding offences while only 34% thought they should be made available to serious offenders.
Research commissioned by Thames Valley Police4 found that, six months after attending a course, drivers were 50% less likely to re-offend than those who opted to pay a fine and accept points on their licence. Similar research from Northumbria Police suggested that 95% of drivers changed the way that they drive as a result of the course.
David Richards, spokesperson for AA DriveTech which runs driver rehabilitation courses for police forces, says that being caught for speeding is a wake-up call for most drivers and if they’re offered a course, they should take advantage of it.
“Most drivers go on a course reluctantly and simply to keep points off their licence. The likelihood of not seeing their car insurance premiums rise, as will happen if they accept a penalty, is a further incentive.
“But once they are on the course the majority of drivers quickly find that they make better informed driving decisions which brings about real improvements in their attitude towards speed and other driving tasks.
“It’s absolutely clear that such courses reduce the likelihood of re-offending and therefore attendees are less likely to be involved in a crash, which in turn contributes to improved road safety for everyone,” he added.
“I hope that other insurers don’t start penalising those who do attend them: it will undermine much of the important progress being made to improve road safety.”
Typical comments from drivers who have attended a speed awareness course:
“I must admit, I went with very limited expectations, feeling slightly resentful…I feel a bit ashamed to say that I now feel reacquainted with some of the Highway code! My whole attitude towards speeding and general road safety has changed…I have taken a fresh interest in driving as a result.”
“I entered this course knowing I had been speeding and the policeman was 100% correct. I thought I knew nearly everything after 40 years driving and had never previously been stopped for anything. As the course went on, I realised by the minute the less I really knew…probably the best money I could have spent…”
“I have to admit … I was not looking forward to it, viewing it as a chore that had to be done, and going with the attitude that I would probably be bored stiff and would be wasting four hours of my precious time. Was I wrong!”
(20 November 2012)
1 Radio Five Live Investigates explored speed awareness courses on Saturday 17 November, which suggested that Admiral Group insurance companies are now taking speed awareness courses into account when calculating car insurance premiums, in the same way as statutory offences.
2 Source: AA Insurance claim statistics
3 AA/Populus study of 11,548 AA members, May 2011
4 Research commissioned by Thames Valley Police and carried out by Upsalla University, 2008/9. Research by Northumbria Police, 2008.