Road Safety News

AA "astonished" by Admiral speed awareness premium increase

Tuesday 20th November 2012

The AA says it is “astonished” that at least one motor insurer increases its customers’ car insurance premiums if they have attended a speed awareness course.

The AA's condemnation follows a BBC Five Live Investigates programme which showed that Admiral insurance is charging higher premiums for motorists who have attended speed awareness courses - in effect treating them in a similar way to those accepting a statutory three-point penalty and £60 fine.

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, says: “The view of most insurers, including the AA, is that attending a course is a responsible approach and should not be penalised by increasing premiums in the same way as a fixed penalty.

“Offenders who have not seriously exceeded the speed limit can expect to be offered a speed awareness course and there is considerable evidence that doing so changes driver attitudes and makes them less likely to both re-offend or claim."

According to an AA/Populus poll of 11,548 AA members, 86% agreed that driver improvement courses should be offered as an alternative to prosecution. 71% thought that such courses should be offered for minor speeding offences, while only 34% thought they should be made available to serious offenders.

The AA also points to research commissioned by Thames Valley Police which found that, six months after attending a course, drivers were 50% less likely to re-offend than those who opted to pay a fine and accept points on their licence. Similar research from Northumbria Police suggested that 95% of drivers changed the way that they drive as a result of the course.

David Richards, spokesperson for AA DriveTech, which runs driver rehabilitation courses for police forces, says that being caught for speeding is a wake-up call for most drivers and if they’re offered a course, they should take advantage of it.

He said: “Most drivers go on a course reluctantly and simply to keep points off their licence. The likelihood of not seeing their car insurance premiums rise, as will happen if they accept a penalty, is a further incentive.

“It’s absolutely clear that such courses reduce the likelihood of re-offending and therefore attendees are less likely to be involved in a crash, which in turn contributes to improved road safety for everyone.

“I hope that other insurers don’t start penalising those who do attend them: it will destroy much of the important progress being made to improve road safety.”


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The "innocent until proven guilty" arguement is no defence in speeding violations. Once the camera detects your excess speed you are guilty and proven. It is a different matter to being charged with a crime and then having a trial in court. I found the Awareness course most educational and I am convinced that Admiral are wrong to penalise attenders. I just hope that this development does not spread to other companies... if they can do it the rest will follow as the competition for insurance on the Internet is now intense.
Denis Totton

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

If you go on a speed awareness course, you do not have to plead guilty to the 'alleged' offence. The course is an alternative to a prosecution. You receive a NIP (notice of intended prosecution), and then have the option (instead of a prosecution) to go on the course. I called my insurer (anonymously) to ask if the course would need to be declared, the insurer (RAC) said I did not need to declare it. The course is useful, and I think re-tests should be mandatory every 5 years or so.

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)

My insurance last year was £299, Admiral have just quoted £420 to renue! Why? Because I went on a speed awerness course! I have been led up the garden path by the system...£120 penalty, it may have been cheaper to accept the 3 points in the first place!
Alan, Swindon

Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

Ive just had my car insurance renewal by MoreThan and they were going to bump my premium by over £60 for a speeding offence that was 3mph above the limit. Surely this is like a double penalty especially when I have been fined and got 3 points for it already? I looked at other insurance companies and was honest with them about the speeding and found that Direct Line actually reduced my premiums by nearly 50%.
John, Durham

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

How would an insurer know unless you informed them? Surely nothing shows up on your licence and information recorded by the Police is subject to the Data Protection Act and unless it is on your actual driving licence and an insurer asks to see it I can't see how they could possibly find out!
Alan, Hertford

Agree (40) | Disagree (22)

It's not me that wanted to know, Hugh, it's some insurance companies that are loading insurance if a motorist attends a SAC. LTT report “The professional institution for insurers is calling for research into whether speed awareness courses improve driver behaviour.”

Peter, the problem with comparing motorists who were offered a place on a SAC and declined it with those who attended the course is that they are self-selecting groups. The group who refused the SAC are likely to be those who cannot afford the time (half a day) to attend. These motorists are likely to cover far higher mileages than those who attend SACs therefore such a comparison may simply find that greater mileages lead to more collisions.

Surely, if SACs change collision risk, then the effects of SACs should be observed in a change in collision rates in the SAC group 3 years before and after the SAC?
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (3) | Disagree (10)

Dave: Why do you need to know this? Getting individuals to go on driving courses is a good thing per se. Improvements in driving will not necessarily show up in accidents stats anyway - there are other benefits to the individuals and communities which don’t get recorded. It might be a useful exercise (if it could be done at all) for those involved (in the DfT or the councils for instance) but for an outsider to practically demand it, simply suggests someone hoping to discredit it.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (3)

Surely the best solution if we were looking to evaluate the statistical benefit of a Speed Awareness Course (and if all this data was made available) would be to compare collision rates between drivers and riders who were offered a place on a SAC and declined it with those who attended the course.

If we just take those drivers and riders who were on their first speeding offence, the size of these two groups should give us a fair comparison without the need to apply any compensation for annual collision trends that we would need if just analysing one group in a ‘before’ and ‘after’ method (which is always open to interpretation and dispute). This would give us the most ‘scientific’ evaluation of how effective SACs have been in reducing collisions.

However, the tricky part of this would be actually acquiring all of the required data from the relevant agencies.
Peter Slater, North East Regional Road Safety Resource

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

There must be millions of motorists that have been on SACs by now so it must surely be possible to determine the effects of SACs on the number and severity of collisions? Estimates can be made without running scientific trials:

Take each motorist on the SAC database and cross reference with STATS19 to find how many collisions each has been involved in within the 3 years after taking the SAC. The problem now arises with what population to compare with.

This could be compared against motorists that have never been on SACs, although this may not be a comparable group for many reasons, such as these motorists might be more likely to cover higher mileages.

Perhaps a better comparison would be to compare against the same motorists in the 3 years before SAC (compensated for “trend”). That should give a good estimate of whether SACs increase or decrease collision rates.
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (2) | Disagree (9)

Anthony is right. I have sat in on a few of these courses and I have sensed that some of those attended did so resentfully (initially anyway - by the end, any such feelings had evaporated) and felt that they had nothing to learn, however what used to shock me was how little some of them knew, or how much they had forgotten, about driving, the rules of the road, the Highway Code etc. i.e. the basic information designed to aid their own safety and that of others. You also sensed that speeding was probably not their only bad habit. This was not necessarily age-related either.

The more drivers that can be steered onto courses like this the better – I just think the title ‘Speed Awareness Course’ should become something like ‘Driving Refresher Course’ - it’s more user-friendly.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (10) | Disagree (5)

The vast majority of attendees on a Driver Awareness Course (in Dorset) or Speed Awareness Course (in the rest of the UK) find the course of benefit to particularly their driving attitude, responsibilities and obligations as drivers. The move by the Admiral group is certainly detrimental to these objectives and effectively will just leave the problem on our roads.

The Dorset scheme is used for all minor offences as well as corporate clients who feel their staff could benefit from some theory training and is seen as an educational exercise, not just a reprimand for an indiscretion. Admiral's stance in effect means that if a traffic warden tells you off for parking on a double yellow line they would expect you to tell them and face the consequences of an increased premium.
Brian Chidgey, ADI, Dorset Roadsafe

Agree (8) | Disagree (3)

I have to agree with Anne in saying many people attending the course arrive not wanting any driver or rider training. They arrive usually within the intention of doing the course to ensure they do not have any points on their licence, for the want of a better saying "keeping it clean"

However when they leave they are commenting on how good the course is, how much they have forgotten, how much they did not know. Therefore they leave that course a better driver, if they put into place items discussed on the course I guess they will be even better drivers.

With this in mind surely the insurance companies should be asking if they have advanced their driving knowledge or techniques in recent years and do like some other insurance companies do, which is give a discount for better, advanced drivers?

If my insurance company increased my insurance after I had further advanced my driving schools I know what I would do!

So well done to the AA for the above - I hope this is coming from your insurance department and not just your driving school and road safety departments.

Agree (7) | Disagree (4)

Rather than rely on the drivers' accident and/or conviction history and the honesty in self-reporting thereof, black-boxes in the vehicles to record the drivers' actual behaviour would seem to be the best assessment of risk.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (5)

I'm sure insurance companies must be aware it'd be a very rare motorist indeed who never breaks any speed limit yet collisions are still uncommon events. They should base their premiums on proven risk such as someone's collision history.
Dr James Whalen DSA ADI (car), Wolverhampton

Agree (13) | Disagree (2)

Admiral and Elephant would also, I believe, from their T & C's charge you from the date of the offence which is why some people are getting charged up to £300.
Steven Bycroft

Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

Bob is absolutely correct to point out that the terms and conditions of any policy are a matter between the company and individual to discuss and accept or not as they wish. However, it is disappointing to see an insurance company that has supported road safety initiatives in the past choosing to punish drivers who have elected to undertake further training at their own expense. Whilst the driver is primarily motivated to avoid a fine and penalty points, the evaluation undertaken so far has shown that the majority of drivers who attend these courses do not reoffend. The course thus achieves its aim. Most driver feedback is that they have actually found the course interesting and engaging and have learned something useful - such as Chris Evans, radio presenter, who recently expressed his doubts before attending one but afterwards gave the course 11/10.
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

Agree (16) | Disagree (5)

No matter what the circumstances are that lead a driver/rider to accept such a course the general belief is that they will not be penalised by law. That they will not suffer a fine (though there is a cost to the course) and will not be penalised by points on their licence.

However in order to be accepted on such a course they basically agree that they committed an offence otherwise they will not be allowed on the course.

Thus the Law is satisfied, but nowhere does it say that in such cases the insurers cannot increase the premiums. That is a private matter between the insurers and the client. They do not need to show any justification at all, even to them or anyone else.

If an insurance company can recognise a driver who has not had an accident or broken the speed limit, he may decide to decrease that person's premium ie a no claims bonus and we all applaud that so they also have the right to increase a person's premium in light of new information. Like it or not, it's their decision.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (6) | Disagree (7)

I would implore any reader who might be considering trying one of these courses – in whatever circumstances that might be - to please ignore Eric Bridgstock’s earlier disparaging and harmful comments about the nature of the course. Regular readers will hopefully realise this is based on wishful thinking and not “Research”. Such comments are disrespectful to those professionals who set up and run these courses.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (25) | Disagree (7)

I question this "wake-up call" claim. Most drivers attending these courses were 2-3mph over the prosecution threshold, under the 85%ile speed and no danger to anyone. The course is designed to encourage them to believe their driving is dangerous and could have killed or injured someone. The beneficial effects of such courses are far from proved, or even convincing.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research

Agree (11) | Disagree (47)

Playing devil's advocate for a moment, I would imagine the insurance companies suspect that a lot of their customers, when asked, are not being honest about their driving convictions, so by asking the question “have you ever been on a speed awareness course?”, to the insurer, a “yes” suggests a speeding offence/conviction, whereas to the customer, a “yes”, might seem like a positive.

I don’t blame the insurers for using this tack, however in my experience, it used to be the case (I don’t know about now) that attendees on one of these courses – or any other similarly titled course - were not necessarily there as offenders, so perhaps the insurers should be asking “have you ever been on a Speed Awareness Course …as a consequence of a motoring offence?” - just so it’s clear.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (1)

The offer comes from the Police and the provider is contracted by the Police. Speed Awareness courses are real time refresher courses. Many people who attend the courses are reluctant or even resistant on arrival, most are there so they will not be penalised by their insurance company, when they leave the courses so many say, "wow fantastic course can't these be compulsory, there is so much I did not know or had forgotten". However this feedback is a result of the course only. If there was no incentive to get them through the door then their attitude or complacency as drivers wouldn't change. Admiral are making a huge mistake.
Anne Green Northants

Agree (17) | Disagree (4)

People on speed awareness courses are likely to be lapsers rather than violators (to use Steve Stradling's terminology). It is violators that are correlated with collision risk. Before an insurance company brings in a policy like this they need good evidence to show speed awareness course attendees are a higher risk group - I suspect they won't be.
Dr James Whalen DSA ADI (car), Wolverhampton

Agree (19) | Disagree (0)

This story got me thinking. Please correct me if I'm wrong but I am led to believe that the sequence of events is that drivers who attend a SAC have been sent a NIP where they admitted only to being the driver. They were then offered the SAC by the private company (not the Police).

If this is true, and if someone is innocent until proved guilty, then technically aren't drivers attending SACs innocent? Surely they can't be labelled “offenders” because they were never charged with any offence and never admitted any offence?

Also, what might “drivers (attending SAC) were 50% less likely to re-offend” mean? Would those who have got half a day available to go on the SAC also be those who drive far fewer miles on average (50% fewer miles?).
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (8) | Disagree (20)

Are Admiral really alone in this? I suspect not. Perhaps they will be big enough to hold up their hands and change their policy now that it has come to light.
Pat, Wales

Agree (15) | Disagree (1)