I had to one of these speeding course a few weeks ago, after I was clocked doing 37mph in a 30mph zone. The first I knew about was a letter coming through the door, all in big block capitals, telling me that I was caught bang to rights and it was a case of take your oil – OR ELSE!
Of course, your first reaction to being informed that you’re been caught by a speeding camera is rage, which is usually followed by a tirade of foul language at the prospect of getting three points on your licence for something that you were totally unaware of.
Like most people, I was particularly angry at the fact I was done for being seven mph over the limit on that particular stretch of road, but more on that later.
So, I was given the option taking the points and paying a sixty quid fine or paying the guts of £90 to attend a ‘speeding awareness course’ and keep the licence clean.
The four hour course turned out to be an educational – if somewhat bizarre experience – which was eye opening on a number of levels.
Secretly though, I love stuff like this, where a bunch of people are thrown together that don’t know each other, and then watching all the different personalities establish themselves over the first ten minutes or so – the whinger, the know it all, and the category that most of us fall into – the ‘I shouldn’t be here anyway, I was only doing 37’ crowd.
The funny thing was that the whole course seemed to be geared at people with that mindset, and knocking the notion out of their pan that seven miles over the limit was no big deal.
It turned out that around 80 per cent of the people on the course were done on the Culmore Road, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, and that led to a fair amount of giving off at the start of the session.
The two boys running the thing had no doubt heard it all before and took this in good enough humour – I mean, were they expected to do? Turn around and say, ‘Aye no bother, head youse on home and sure we’ll go and change speed limit to 40 wherever it is you were caught!’
Not a chance, and so it was down to the business of making us see the error of our ways, which was done through some pretty nasty statistics, photographic evidence, and most embarrassingly of all, a concentration test which I couldn’t have gotten more wrong if had been blindfolded and tucked away in isolation like the dootsy couples in the old series of Mr and Mrs.
It was sobering enough stuff to be fair, mostly focussed on how stopping distances can be radically affected by just a couple of miles per hour, and the damage a car can do to a human body at that speed, which was illustrated by a depressingly grim real life news story.
The truth of the matter is that, and I’m assuming this is true for the majority of people who do these things, that I keep my eye on my speed a lot more now because a) I’ve been done and b) I don’t want to get done again. It also gives the excuse in my own head to wind impatient drivers up by keeping it at 30mph when I could be putting the boot down a wee bit more, but here, I’m not taking three points because the driver behind me is in a hurry to get nowhere faster.
In saying that, there was one picture that stayed with me after the thing had wound up, which was of a the damage to a man’s car caused by a youngfella going through his windscreen at 39mph.
So when I’m coming off the Strand Road onto the Culmore Road and the car next to me zooms past, I have a wee smile to myself as it’s not good dropping her back down to 30 after you’ve seen that wee flash on the roadside.

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