Speed awareness course: how long does it take, how much does it cost and who’s eligible?
If you’re caught speeding, you could take a speed awareness course instead of getting points on your licence – our guide explains all
Even the most careful drivers can end up receiving a speeding notice in the post, but if the offence is only minor, you could be offered a speed awareness course, sparing you from receiving penalty points on your driving licence.
According to the most recent statistic from the UK Government, 45% of drivers exceed the speed limit on motorways, increasing to 50% in 30mph zones. As the number of speed cameras increases across the UK, the odds of being caught speeding have increased too. It’s not difficult to slip above the speed limit on occasion, whether it be through a momentary lapse in concentration or while overtaking. Not all speeding notices will result in points, however, and you may instead be offered a speed awareness course.
The courses last just under three hours, and since the Covid-19 pandemic it’s been possible to take a course online. It might seem like a hassle, but taking a speed awareness course can save you from getting penalty points on your driving licence.
What is a speed awareness course?
The purpose of a speed awareness course is as its name suggests: to refresh your knowledge of the potential dangers of speeding and the possible consequences of going too fast. It provides you with a chance to revisit the Highway Code, something many drivers haven’t looked at since they were learning to drive. It can be a useful exercise to improve your attitude towards safe driving and learn about updates and changes to the rules you may not be aware of.
Speed awareness courses are run by independent companies, so each differs slightly from the next. Depending on the provider, you may be able to choose between an in-person or virtual course.
Am I eligible for a speed awareness course?
If you’ve been caught speeding, you’ll receive a letter informing you of the consequences – there are three potential options: paying the fine and taking the points, going to court to settle it, or taking a speed awareness course with a slightly reduced fine and no penalty points if you’re eligible.
You’ll qualify for a speed awareness course if it’s your first speeding offence or if you haven’t taken the course in the past three years. On top of that, there are set speeds that qualify for a speed awareness course, so if you were speeding by more than these amounts, you won’t be given the option of a course – and it’s also at the discretion of the police force involved, so you won’t always be offered the option.
The amount by which you can break the speed limit and still be eligible to take a speed awareness course is between 10% of the speed limit plus 2mph, to 10% of the limit plus 9mph. However, this is dependent on the specific rules set out by the prosecuting police force.
- 20mph limit: speeding between 24mph and 31mph
- 30mph limit: speeding between 35mph and 42mph
- 40mph limit: speeding between 46mph and 53mph
- 50mph limit: speeding between 57mph and 64mph
- 60mph limit: speeding between 68mph and 75mph
- 70mph limit: speeding between 79mph and 86mph
How often can you take a speed awareness course?
Not every driver caught speeding will be offered the chance to take a speed awareness course, partly because not all police forces subscribe to the programme.
To qualify for a speed awareness course you can’t have already attended one in the previous three years. If you commit another speeding offence within three years of taking the course you will automatically receive a fine and points on your licence.
How much does a speed awareness course cost?
Different police forces across the UK use different organisations to provide the speed awareness course, and each charge a different amount. The cheapest in the country are just over £70, while the most expensive are nearly £100. Some providers may let you pay the course fee in instalments.
This is roughly the same as the standard Fixed Penalty Notice you’d receive for a speeding ticket (currently £100), but if you take the speed awareness course you don’t get any points put on your licence (a minimum of three points). Points on your licence will likely increase the cost of your insurance premium, so taking the speed awareness course will almost always be the cheaper option.
What should I expect from a speed awareness course?
Exactly what happens on a speed awareness course will vary slightly between different areas of the country. The speed awareness course session is run by a number of independent companies, including the AA. Although there’s no exam to pass, you have to display a ‘positive attitude’ throughout the course and contribute to group discussions.
The session is designed to explore why you were speeding in the first place, and reduce the likelihood of you speeding in future. It will include information about stopping distances, aims to improve your awareness of your surroundings, and helps you work out the speed limit of an unfamiliar road. It will also touch on the possible consequences of speeding, and ideally aid in your defensive driving abilities. Think of it as an advanced driving course, because you should find information learned from the session helpful on future drives.
Remember to take a form of photo ID with you (ideally a driving licence, or two alternate forms), and make sure you arrive at least 15 minutes before the course starts. You must attend the full duration of the course and, once completed, the course provider will notify the police that you’ve attended and you won’t face any further action.
Can I take a speed awareness course online?
Speed awareness courses moved online during the Covid-19 pandemic, so you had to join a video call to participate. These measures were necessary at a time when everyone had to stay at home, meaning that you didn’t have to travel to a centre to take the course.
Virtual courses are still offered, though they aren’t as widely available as they were a couple of years ago – so if you’re offered a course, you should probably prepare yourself for having to take it in person.
How long does a speed awareness course take?
Most courses currently state a time of around 2 hours and 45 minutes, with some time for a break in the middle of the session. If you do find an online course is offered to you, these may take a little less time. Courses take place throughout the week but also during the evenings and weekends, so you won’t necessarily have to take time off work to attend.
Can a speed awareness course affect your car insurance?
This is a slightly grey area. While any speeding convictions and points must legally be declared to your insurance company (or any potential insurer when getting quotes), the onus is on the insurer to ask whether you’ve taken a speed awareness course. While this is information many online comparison sites don’t require you to provide, some insurance companies do ask this question when you take out cover. If they ask, you are legally obligated to inform them about it, or else risk invalidating your policy.
It’s a sensible idea to go through your policy carefully to determine if this is an area your premium provider asked about when you took out your insurance. If it was, you should contact them and inform them you’ve taken the course. Do be aware that some companies will increase your insurance premium if they learn you’ve taken a speed awareness course. Despite the fact that you’ve not received any points on your driving licence, it's likely they’ll view you as more of an insurance risk than a driver who has not been caught speeding.
Speed awareness course: frequently asked questions
Can you fail the course?
If you don’t complete the course in a satisfactory way (quitting the workshop before it finishes or not actively participating), then you may fail the course. If this happens you’ll have to take the points or be summoned to court. It’s also highly unlikely that you’ll be refunded the cost of the course.
How many people will be on the course?
There will typically be two training staff, along with up to 24 attendees who have been caught speeding. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many areas are offering virtual speed awareness courses – and this has continued in some places, albeit not widely, since restrictions were lifted.
Is there any driving involved in a speed awareness course?
No, the course is classroom-based and you don’t need to bring your car if you don’t want to.
How do I book a speed awareness course?
Once you have received a Notice of Intended Prosecution from the police, you will need to accept the offer of a course and return the form within the time limit stated in your letter. 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 of the location for an in-person course, or the access details for a virtual online course. You may need to complete a workbook and/or watch a short video before the start of the course.
Can I take a speed awareness course at the weekend?
Yes, depending on the course provider, some can be attended seven days a week. Booking is typically offered in the morning, afternoon, or evening. This may depend on availability, however.
Can I appeal rather than take a course?
You can, but this can be risky. If you appeal against a speeding notice, the option of a speed awareness course will be withdrawn, and if you end up going to court and losing your appeal, then you’ll be subject to much larger fines and more penalty points.
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