Speed Awareness course – what’s it all about?

Apparently you don’t have to tell anyone you’ve been on a speed awareness course – just in case you are terribly ashamed of being caught driving along at 35m.p.h. instead of 30 m.p.h. Looking at my fellow course participants who all sat silently in the waiting room at the AA Speed Awareness course centre looking as if they were about to face the guillotine, or perhaps a particularly nasty root canal treatment – I would say no one was very happy to be there. They didn’t look like your typical criminals mind you. Middle aged people, young people, old people, all very respectable looking, but then that’s what people say about serial killers – ‘they look so ordinary!’
I overheard one of the instructors say to the other ‘they’re very quiet – I hope you can liven them up!’ Liven them up! Was it going to be a stand up comedy performance, some bizarre extension of the Edinburgh fringe perhaps?

It can happen to anyone..

I had been tipped off that the old guy was a much better presenter than the other one, so I made sure I was in his group. Scottish Doug, with his Tasmanian Devil tie was a very likeable character, and did in fact make the four hours of speed awareness tedium as interesting as one possibly could. Four hours it was! I could have flown to Greece in that time. But when I emerged blinking into the sunlight from the small stuffy room, I was still definitely in Cramlington.
Doug asked us how we felt when we opened the letter with the lovely summons in it. ‘Furious!’ was the general consensus. Doug was placatory. This is minor road traffic offence – treat it as a refresher course! We were asked if we were impersonating anyone else. Like who? Cher? Cheryl Cole? No, Doug informed us that sometimes people sent other people on the course instead of them, as if they wouldn’t notice.

Smiling but deadly

I can’t say I learnt a great deal I didn’t know already. Motorways I know are the safest roads. A tree is a static hazard and in a collision, the tree always wins. Yes if only Marc Bolan had remembered that. Or Sonny Bono.
Urban areas are the most dangerous and 71% of collisions occur there, although half of all fatalities occur in rural environments as a result of the aforementioned static hazards. We were shown a video featuring a poor man’s Jeremy Clarkson in a dodgy leather jacket – some ex racing driver called Tiff – who convinced us that marginal speeding was dangerous. I think.

The real Jeremy Clarkson

I learnt that repeated speed signs are called ‘commencement’ signs which I must try and drop into a conversation sometime soon. Also if you hit a traffic cone and it flies into the air it can cause injury – something I confess I had never given a moment’s consideration.. In addition, you cannot call road traffic crossing patrol people ‘lolliop men’ or ‘lollipop women’ as it is now considered an offensive term.
Doug was losing me after three hours or so of speed awareness saturation and my mind did start to drift off to what I was going to have for lunch. However he did manage to make the process relatively painless and did refresh my  memory about certain things. So it wasn’t all bad. Honest.

Don’t step on the gas!