What to expect on a speed-awareness course?

If you’re caught speeding, you might be given the option to attend a National Speed Awareness Course to avoid getting points on your licence. Find out what to expect from the course, how much it costs and how to book.

If you’re caught speeding, you might be given the option to attend a National Speed Awareness Course to avoid getting points on your licence. Find out what to expect from the course, how much it costs and how to book.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
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Posted 26 APRIL 2021

When will you be asked to attend a speed-awareness course?

If you’re caught speeding by the police or by a speed camera, you may be given the chance to take a speed-awareness course to avoid getting penalty points on your licence. The course is designed to motivate you to avoid speeding in future and to get to grips with the possible consequences of driving too fast.

You’ll get a letter from the police within 14 days of being caught speeding, telling you the consequences of the offence and what your options are. If you’re deemed eligible for a speed awareness course, you’ll be able to choose from the following three options:

  • pay a fine and accept three points on your driving licence
  • pay to take a speed awareness course
  • go to court to appeal your case

Although the cost of the course is usually comparable to the fine, you may decide it’s a better option, as you’ll keep the points off your licence and avoid any related hike in your car insurance premium.

What happens on the speed-awareness course? What will I learn?

Speed-awareness courses are theoretical and classroom-based, rather than practical lessons, so you won’t need to drive during the course.

In pre-coronavirus days, you would be given a date and time to attend an interactive, in-person workshop session with other speeding offenders, ran by a trained course provider.

Due to the pandemic, courses are currently available online instead, but they follow a similar format.

On the speed-awareness course, the trainer will use videos and other visual aids to encourage you to respect speed limits in future. Don’t worry, it’s not all gruesome crash footage. The emphasis is on getting drivers to think about why they should avoid speeding and teaching them practical ways they can drive more safely. There’s a lot of focus on group discussion and participation. 

Attendees will learn:

  • how to identify speed limits, and work out the speed limit of unfamiliar roads
  • why it’s dangerous to speed and the potential consequences to themselves and others if they were to crash as a result of speeding
  • how speeding can affect stopping distances
  • how to recognise and resist pressure to speed from themselves and others
  • the importance of concentration to recognise potential hazards
  • how to improve awareness of your surroundings
  • the importance of giving other motorists space
  • how to manage time so you don’t end up speeding to get somewhere

At the end of the course, attendees will have the chance to make a personal plan about how they’re going to drive differently in the future to avoid speeding.

How long does a speed-awareness course last?

You’ll need to set aside a generous half-day for courses held in person. Typically, courses last four to five hours (including a break), and you’ll also need to factor in the time to get there and back, depending on how close you live to your allocated course centre.

Due to coronavirus, courses are currently held exclusively online. It takes around two-and-a-half hours to complete the virtual course.

How many people will be on the course?

Despite the pandemic, over a million UK drivers attended a National Speed Awareness course in 2020, either online or in person. Normally you can expect 12-24 other motorists to join you on an in-person course. The online classes have a smaller limit, though, of up to nine other attendees.

When can I take a speed-awareness course?

Courses run at different times throughout the week, and on evenings and weekends too, so you won’t necessarily need to take time off work to attend.

Make sure you agree to a course – or pay the fine – before the deadline specified by the police letter, or you’ll likely end up in court.

Am I eligible to go on a speed-awareness course?

If this is your first speeding offence, or if it’s been at least three years since you attended a previous speed awareness course, then you may be eligible to attend a course instead of getting points. But it also depends on how far over the speed limit you were driving.

To qualify for a speed-awareness course, the speed you were caught driving at needs to fall below a certain threshold. This is typically calculated as 10% of the speed limit plus between 2-10mph extra.

So, for example, that works out as between 35 and 43mph in a 30mph zone, or between 68 and 76mph in a 60mph zone.

If you’re caught driving over these limits, it’s classed as a more serious speeding offence and there’s a good chance you’ll end up in court.

How much does a speed awareness course cost?

The price for a course varies, often by area and provider, but typically it costs around £80-90. It’s comparable to the cost of the speeding fine, although you may be able to pay in instalments.

The advantage of taking the speed-awareness course is keeping the penalty points off your licence, as well as getting a valuable refresher on the dangers of speeding. Depending on the conviction, points can stay on your licence for at least four and, for the more serious driving convictions, up to 11 years. Take the course and you can keep your driving licence nice and clean.

A government study also found that attending a National Speed Awareness Course (NSAC) was more effective at reducing the rate of drivers speeding over the following three years than the fine and penalty points.

Can you fail a speed-awareness course?

There’s no exam to take at the end of the course, whether you pass or fail is at the discretion of the course provider. To pass, you’ll have to be there for the full duration of the course, and trainers will expect you to show a positive attitude throughout and contribute to group discussions.

If for any reason you fail to complete the course, the provider will notify the police. They may allow you to pay to retake the course, or they may insist that you instead pay the fine and take the penalty points.

The initial police letter will detail the enforcement period. This is the time you have to respond to the charge, either by taking a NSAC or by paying the fine. If you fail to either take the course or pay the fine within this period, you’ll be taken to court.

Who runs speed-awareness courses?

Speed-awareness courses are now offered by almost all police forces in England and Wales. The courses are run by UKROEd a not-for-profit organisation that manages the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) on behalf of the police.

Police forces that offer the courses will appoint a course provider who is regulated by the Association of National Driver Improvement Course Providers (ANDISP), to deliver courses in their region.

How many times can you take a speed-awareness course?

You can only take one speed-awareness course in a three-year period, which is the same amount of time the penalty points would last on your driving licence. If you’re not sure when you took your last course you can check on the NDORS website.

How do I book a speed-awareness course?

If you want to accept the offer of a course, you should return the form that comes with your police letter within the time limit stated. The letter will tell you which organisation is providing courses in your area, and how to book online. You’ll receive a confirmation email with details and how to get to the location if you’re attending a course in person.

For online courses, you can book the course as normal, but you'll get an email giving you the details of how to join a virtual meeting. You're not allowed to have anyone else in the room with you while you're taking the course. If you have kids, you’ll want to make sure you’ve arranged childcare – any interference could mean you getting kicked off the course and you may not be able to reschedule. 

What else do I need to know about attending a speed-awareness course?

When you attend your course, either online or in person, you’ll need to bring some form of photo ID – like your driving licence or passport – so the trainer can make sure it’s really you.

If you’re attending an online course, you’ll need a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone with a working microphone and camera. You’ll also need a reliable internet connection that’s capable of streaming video, and a quiet place to take the course with no distractions. You're not permitted to take pictures during the course or record any of the material.

Make sure you arrive early. If you’re late, you may be refused entry and have to repay to take the course at another time. If you realise beforehand that you’ll be unable to attend for any reason, you should be able to reschedule – as long as it’s within the enforcement period stated in your letter from the police.

Will taking a speed-awareness course affect my car insurance?

Taking a speed awareness course could increase the cost of your car insurance, as your insurance provider may see you as posing a greater risk. But on the other hand, having a speeding conviction and points on your licence could have an even greater impact on your premium – so a course may end up saving you money. 

The police and NSAC course provider won’t inform your insurance provider if you need to go on a speed-awareness course, but you may need to tell them.

Be truthful: if you’re caught out in a lie it could invalidate your policy. Check your policy to see if your current provider asked you about taking a speed-awareness course – if so, you should contact them to let them know if your situation has changed.  

Find out more about how speed awareness courses can affect your car insurance.

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