My first thoughts when I read the letter from Sussex Police informing me that my car had been caught speeding was that, phew, on this occasion it certainly wouldn’t be me. And I admit there was a fleeting moment of smugness of “I told them so” when I looked at the timings to work out which of my children was the culprit and thought of the occasions when I’d warned them that speeding was not big, not clever and actually very dangerous.
But when I saw the date, the time and the place, I realised that it was not any of my three sons, aged 18 to 22, who being young and male, according to insurance statistics are in the high risk category of driving but ME – their middle aged mother, driver of a ten-year-old 1.1 Kia Picanto bought for them to learn to drive in, to keep the insurance cost as low as possible and certainly not for speed.
The irony of this was not lost on my sons who did take some pleasure in reminding me of the incidents, when young, of when I had been caught three times on the same camera on the same day of the week as I ferried them from one activity to another. For the following three years, we had a family system in place whereby all local speed camera positions were known and communicated to me in full voice and with plenty of notice.
So on this latest occasion, when the news had sunk in, I examined my options. I could either take the three points on my licence and pay the £100 fine, or I could sign up to a four hour National Speed Awareness course for a cost of £85 and half a day out the office.
The day soon arrived. I had been warned by colleagues not to be late or face being locked out and losing the course fee. Being unprepared and thinking I knew exactly where it was being held, but then discovering that wasn’t actually the case, I arrived with 30 seconds to spare, sprinted to the entrance to discover the door had been closed. Paranoid that I was late, I informed the two attendees behind me that we would have to go home only to discover that I hadn’t turned the handle correctly and we were actually still welcome to take part.
I entered the building with the attitude that this was a necessary evil I had to endure to keep the points off my licence and that, hey, doing 36mph in a 30mph is not really a big deal. The police should be out there trying to catch the real speed fiends who can do the real damage.
But during the four hours there was a dawning realisation that, actually, I am one of those people who can do real damage in a car – as can any motorist. The only reason that I’ve escaped being involved in a road traffic accident is down to luck. At one stage during the course, I wondered whether I would ever want to get behind a wheel again. The evidence of the dangers of speeding was compelling. No one could have left that room believing it was acceptable to speed. The two instructors, who were not there to rap knuckles, but to educate, believe that in years to come, speeding will be as socially unacceptable as drink driving is today.
I hope so. I’ve been quick to give my own glib excuses in the past for speeding but when you think about it, there is no actual excuse if you cause an injury or worse by speeding.
I’m sticking to the speed limit from now on.