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Speed awareness courses: everything you need to know

July 21, 2022 by

Speed awareness courses can be an alternative to penalty points and a fine; our guide has all the details

In 2021, 87% of cars travelling in 20mph zones exceeded the limit; in 30mph zones, 51% of cars broke the limit; and on motorways the figure was 48%.

Given those figures, it’s little surprise that around 2.7 million people are caught speeding each year, and a similar number of drivers have three or more penalty points in their licence.

But if you are caught speeding, you may not have to have penalty points on your licence – you may be offered a speed awareness course instead. This guide explains what criteria you will need to meet to be eligible for a speed awareness course, and what you can expect if you attend one.

What is a speed awareness course?

Rather than threaten speeding motorists with penalty points and a fine and hoping this dissuades them from breaking the limit, speed awareness courses are run with the intention of educating drivers about the dangers posed by speeding.

If you have been caught speeding and were not pulled over by police at the time, you will receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) and a ‘Section 172 notice’ in the post. These will be addressed to the registered keeper of the vehicle that was speeding, asking if they or someone else was driving the car at the time of the offence.

Assuming the person was you, once you return the Section 172 notice (the name relates to the part of the Road Traffic Act that requires you to identify the driver), one of three possible things will happen:

  • You will receive a fixed penalty notice (typically three points and a fine)
  • You will receive a letter telling you to go to court (this if for serious speeding offences, or if you already have several points on your licence)
  • You will be offered a speed awareness course

Speed awareness course eligibility

In order to be offered a speed awareness course the police force that caught you speeding must be signed up to the programme, while the courses are intended for people caught committing low-end speeding offences.

Note that if you have completed a speed awareness course within the previous three years, you will not be eligible to take another one, and will automatically receive points instead.

There are criteria for how much over the limit you were going in order for you to be eligible for a speed awareness course:

Speed limit (mph) Course-eligible speed (mph)
20 24-31
30 35-42
40 46-53
50 57-64
60 68-75
70 79-86

If you’re wondering why the eligibility for a speed awareness course doesn’t start at just 1mph over the speed limit, that’s linked to the fact that guidance from the The Association of Chief Police Officers advises police to penalise drivers travelling 10+ 2mph over the speed limit and above (EG 79mph on a motorway). This 10% +2mph paradigm is only guidance, though: police are able to use their discretion and judgement when deciding what thresholds to use when setting speed cameras, and what individual officers should do when they catch someone driving.

What happens at a speed awareness course?

Speed awareness courses typically run for four hours in person (with a break in the middle) or for two and a half hours or so online. The coronavirus pandemic pushed courses online, and while face-to-face ones have started to reappear, online courses are still popular.

Courses are run by external facilitators rather than the police themselves. Evening and weekend appointments are typically offered, so you may not need to book time off work.

Courses are typically run with up to 24 drivers if they are in-person, or up to nine drivers if they are online. Participants will typically begin the course by being prompted by two trainers tol share their experiences of being caught.

Speed awareness courses are purely theory based, so there is no driving involved. Trainers will typically cover topics such as the effect speed has on stopping distances, how to prevent yourself from unintentionally creeping above the limit (IE by using cruise control or a speed limiter), and tactics to ensure you have enough time to complete your journeys without feeling the need to rush.

The courses do not have a pass/fail test (though there may be informal quizzes), but you will be expected to contribute positively and engage with the course. If it is deemed you are uncooperative or disruptive the course administrator may contact the police force and tell them about this, which will lead to you receiving the penalty points and a fine you would otherwise have been due.

Anecdotally, some drivers say they were worried that they will be lectured, harangued or patronised in a speed awareness course, but ended up finding them more interesting, engaging and thought provoking than they imagined.

Speed awareness course cost

The cost of speed awareness courses varies based on both which police force caught you speeding, and what course provider they use. Prices range from roughly £75 to £100, with £90 being typical.

Speed awareness course locations

In-person courses were offered up and down the country, while online courses can be completed from the comfort of your own home. You’ll need a room where you can concentrate undisturbed, plus a decent wi-fi connection and a laptop or desktop computer with a webcam.

How to book a speed awareness course

If you receive the offer of a speed awareness course instructions for how to book a place will be included with the offer. Places can typically be booked online or over the phone.

Speed awareness course FAQs

How long is a speed awareness course?

Courses typically last between 4.5 and 2.5 hours, with a break in-between, and in-person courses generally taking longer than online ones.

How often can you do a speed awareness course?

No more than once every three years. If you have already taken a course within this timeframe and are caught speeding again, you will not be offered another course.

Are speed awareness courses still online?

Yes. Although coronavirus restrictions have generally been lifted, the convenience of online courses has seen most remain online.

Does a speed awareness course count as a conviction?

No – the appeal of speed awareness courses is that they avoid a motoring conviction and penalty points.

Can you fail a speed awareness course?

Not as such, but if you fail to engage with the course or do not complete elements of it, the course providers may inform the police, who are likely to issue you the fine and penalty points you would otherwise have received. If this happens, you are unlikely to receive a refund on the course fee.

Do you have to declare a speed awareness course to your car insurer?

This is something of a grey area. Many insurers and price-comparison websites do not ask if you have attended a speed awareness course, but if you are asked you must declare that you have, or risk your policy being invalidated. Check with your insurance company to find out if an existing policy requires speed awareness courses to be declared if you are unsure.

Why was I not offered a speed awareness course?

This will be for one of three reasons: 1. The amount you broke the speed limit by did not fall within the criteria required for a course. 2. The police force that caught you speeding does not offer speed awareness courses. 3. You have previously taken a course within the past three years.

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