No evidence of increased road safety benefits
Participation in a speed awareness course cuts reoffending rates by as much as 23% after six months compared with those drivers who were offered a course but turned it down.
Over the same period reoffending was around 12% lower amongst attendees compared with people who were caught speeding in circumstances where they were just going too fast to be offered a course, though the longer the elapsed period after taking a course the smaller the reduction in reoffending compared with comparison groups.
The findings appear in a Department for Transport-commissioned study carried out by Ipsos MORI which concludes:
“The findings from this evaluation showed that participation in the National Speed Awareness Course has a larger effect in reducing speed reoffending than the penalty points and fine associated with Fixed Penalty Notices for the types of driver offered the course.”
However, no significant evidence could be found that speed awareness courses cut death and injury on the road:
“This study did not find that participation in NSAC had a statistically significant effect on the number or severity of injury collisions (though some results were on the border of statistical significance) relative to a Fixed Penalty Notice. The data showed that injury collisions were rare amongst both participants and non-participants in NSAC, and despite the large number of drivers included in the sample for this research, the numbers of collisions available for analysis was too small to draw definitive conclusions.”
The report also says:
“The wider findings of the evaluation also support the results of other studies. Firstly, the present findings suggest that penalty points are increasingly effective at reducing reoffending as the driver accumulates points.
“Secondly, the findings of the evaluation also confirm that those detected at speeds above the maximum thresholds for course eligibility recommended in NPCC guidance are more likely to reoffend.”
A national speed awareness course (NSAC) was first introduced in 2007. Last year (2017) just under 1.2 million drivers attended an NSAC with around 200,000 more drivers attending seven other types of course designed for those who have committed other kinds of motoring offence.
The study authors analysed data from 13 police forces in England for the period 2012-2017. The data related to 2.2 million drivers in total, 1.4 million of whom had been on an NSAC which cost an average of £87.44 but vary in price up and down the country.
The report quotes police guidance on what speeds drivers can expect to be offered the chance to go on a course rather than receive points on their licence and a fine.
Philip Gomm of the RAC Foundation said:
“Any public scheme involving millions of people and tens of millions of pounds should be held to the highest levels of scrutiny.
“Speed awareness courses could be seen as the modern equivalent of what happened in the ‘olden days’ where relatively low-level offenders were given a good ticking off by bobbies and told the error of their ways rather than being sent straight before the bench and getting a criminal record.”
Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation
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Notes to editors:
The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.
All the Foundation’s work is available on its website: