Road Safety News

Research reveals value of speed awareness courses

Tuesday 22nd January 2013

Speed awareness courses have a “long term impact” on driving behaviour, according to a new study.

Researchers interviewed 1,311 motorists who had been caught speeding and opted to attend a course delivered by TTC 2000 (part of the TTC Group).

Professor Robin Martin, Aston University Business School, carried out the research and concluded that the courses improve people’s attitude and intention not to speed in the future.

The researchers reviewed how people behaved before and after the course; what they had learned, their attitude to the course and their future intention to “positively modify their driving behaviour”.

80% of respondents said they would attend the course again because they knew they would learn something, and attendees said they shared course material with family and friends.

Respondents’ views of road safety initiatives also improved as a result of attending the course, and they also “realised the importance of driving within the required speed limit”.

People who blamed others for their speeding and had a mindset that they shouldn’t be on the course were less likely to change their behaviour, and those who already had penalty points had a “lower attitude” to the course benefits. Older people had the best attitude, particularly older women. Annual mileage did not have any significant impact on the results.

Professor Martin said: “The results clearly show that the speed awareness course led to reliable improvements in client’s attitude to speeding and importantly their intention not to break the speed limit.

“The benefit of the course occurred immediately and persisted several weeks after course delivery. The speed awareness course led to very reliable improvements in clients’ attitude towards not speeding.”

For more information contact Professor Martin by email:


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If they work why were 10 out of the 25 people I was in the course with today on their second or more course?
Simon wrexham

Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

Let's face it - this is another money making scheme or self propelled interest by those employed by it to declare that value is achieved by SAC. Or in fact speed limits are even appropriate, it's an easy thing to catch, as apposed to what often is more the case, inappropriate driving, or under skilled drivers. Travelling down the motorway exceeding the speed limit, more likely to be caught from that (yet less likely to cause an accident - if driving with consideration of COAST principles) by one of the expensive road safety vans sat on a down hill straight part of the motorway. Than driving in the middle lane at a slow speed, too close to other traffic and driving inconsiderately by pulling out into traffic, which is often the main cause of a collision further back. If you take the COAST principles to their conclusion, actually we should be enforcing a minimum speed on the motorway, but introducing mandatory lessons on motorway driving. As driving at a higher speed, but taking into account increased distances around car, would improve driver alertness, skill and concentration and result in less accidents.

Speed isn't the issue - bad driving, poor driving standards and teachings in order to get a license, and a failure to actually target the real issue, is.
James West Midlands

Agree (9) | Disagree (5)

If the course is so valuable in changing driver behaviour in the long term why is it only offered to drivers only a cartain munber of miles over a speed limit while those 'over' the cut-off point are simply fined and given points instead. How effective is this in changibg beviour of someone driving well over the speed limit - surely they should be made to attend a course as well if they are so effective.

Agree (14) | Disagree (1)

If the course is so important, why doesn't it form part of a condition to get a driving licence? Prevention rather than cure?

Agree (21) | Disagree (1)

Eric and Hugh.

Thank you for your contributions to this discussion thread. You have both articulated your positions and it is quite clear you are not in agreement. I'm going to draw a line under your personal debate and let our readers draw their own conclusions on your various posts.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety GB newsfeed

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Good job your not a real road safety officer Eric, dishing out advice like that to the motoring public.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (4)

I apologise for the slightly delayed response to Idris’ comments earlier on in this debate. I was particularly interested in his point that ‘Derbyshire's review of 2011 primary causal factors identified speeding as 2.7%.’

I’m not sure what document he is referring to, nor in fact what that phrase actually means. I assume that it’s that 2.7% of collisions have as the first (primary) causation factor excess speed of some form. If that’s the case I’m not sure what relevance it has, as it suggests speed can be ignored as a factor if it’s not the first of the causation factors listed, plainly a nonsense.

Of course I may have misunderstood the phrase, but to reply with facts, in Derbyshire in 2011 19% of collisions had speed as a causation factor. In this I include the trio of:

Careless/reckless/in a hurry
Travelling too fast for conditions
Exceeding the speed limit.

I could argue that other causation factors also mean speed is a factor, but that’s likely to lead to another redundant exchange of emails.
Matt Pickard, Senior Project Officer, Casualty Reduction Strategy, Derbyshire County Council

Agree (7) | Disagree (4)

Just to pick up on points from Eric & Idris - I don't know if you've undertaken one of the courses, but you'll find that they cover the COAST acronym:

Concentration, Observation, Anticipation, Space and Time.

Yes, these courses are linked to speed - that is why the attendees are there. But having sat in one as an observer, I can truthfully say that they aren't forums for hammering a Speed Kills message - they are a holistic view of driving which incorporates the COAST topics, of which speed is a part.

I think that this should go some what to answering the points that you've raised.
Neil Hopkins, Sussex Safer Roads Partnership

Agree (7) | Disagree (2)

Not negative Hugh, just not prepared to swallow the "slower equals safer" nonsense.

You say: "should make any drivers realise how important their own speed would be in avoiding the unexpected - this requires them to concentrate more and be more observant".

Concentration is aided by stimulation. Driving slower usually reduces stimulation and hence is more likely to reduce concentration.

A faster driver concentrating can be more alert, and therefore able to deal with the unexpected, than one who has heeded misguided advice from a SAC and is driving slower than they would have been otherwise.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (9) | Disagree (16)

Why always so negative Eric? They’re not ‘spectacular’ crashes, they’re avoidable everyday collisions of the type that go to make up our accident statistics. These clips show how the unexpected can happen at any time and should make any drivers realise how important their own speed would be in avoiding the unexpected - this requires them to concentrate more and be more observant, which are the failings you highlighted anyway.
Incidentally, why have you and Duncan presumed that SAC participants only ever exceed the limit by a small amount? That’s only what they were caught at. How do you know they’re not prone to drive at much higher illegal speeds at other times and would therefore, in your view, be more deserved contenders for a SAC? Any driver training is better than none at all. Some people benefit, some don’t, but it’s still worth doing.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (10) | Disagree (5)


Your faith in Speed Awareness Courses based on your examples and argument is misjudged.
As Duncan said "Speed awareness courses seem to be targeted at those individuals who sit within the limits of expected variation within the DWEED system" - just a few mph over the prosecution threshold. Showing spectacular crashes to such an audience will not have them thinking "that could be me unless I slow down".

Most likely, the crashes were due to misjudgement or poor (or lapsed) observation/concentration. Such problems can be addressed by training but the focus on speed will do nothing to prevent crashes.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (7) | Disagree (9)

Ironically, I started watching the You Tube clips referred to, but sadly didn’t make it till the end as I couldn’t help but be distracted by the other advertised ‘related’ You Tube clips, usually titled ‘Car Crash Compilations’ or similar and would suggest that the Speed Awareness Courses show as many of these as possible as they are so educational. Most, if not all of the incidents you see, could have been avoided if one or more of the drivers involved had been going slower. Speed awareness is therefore essential for drivers, but the message could be delivered more effectively by showing these real-life, “it could happen to you”, incidents.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (5)

For those interested as the full report link has not been posted.

The presentations of the report can be found here:
Part 1:

Part 2:

Interesting viewing providing an insight into the methodology and the effectiveness of such courses with regard to 'Intention not to Speed'.

As Professor Martin clearly states in Part 2. The course was effective in changing peoples Intention to behave, however, he also states that it was impossible to measure actual behaviour after the course due to restraints.

Unless true control groups are used where individuals are denied the course and compared to those offered the course and studied over several years, how can a true measure of effectiveness be made?
Keith Doyle

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If these speed awareness courses 'worked', insurance companies would drastically reduce the premiums for people who had attended them. They don't, so they don't.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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Just when I thought a speed-related news item was going to run its course without a comment mentioning the regularly misunderstood 85th%ile – someone goes and does it!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (10) | Disagree (4)

The DfT has recently issued revised guidance on setting local speed limits. The new guidance retains the mean speed as the basis of setting limits. In its response to the DfT's consultation, ACPO was concerned that use of the mean speed would risk unrealistic limits being set and recommended reversion to the 85th percentile, as also favoured by the Alliance of British Drivers. The DfT rejected these calls, saying that the mean speed was chosen "to enable traffic authorities to to justify more and lower speed limits where communities want them."

So we have official acknowledgement that speed limits are being set based on the feelings of local residents, not on a rational analysis of an appropriate speed limit for safety. With what authority, therefore, can the presenters of speed awareness courses assert that exceeding a speed limit is always dangerous?

If we had properly set speed limits based on the 85th percentile, most of the speeding 'problem' would go away.
Malcolm Heymer, Dereham

Agree (17) | Disagree (7)

In response to Neil Hopkins' on alternatives to courses for (modest) speeders - don't waste time, money and effort catching them in the first place! Speeds above limits are relatively insignificant in accident causation ( especially marginal speeding. Derbyshire's review of 2011 primary causal factors identified speeding as 2.7%.

Add in that cameras cover 3% of urban roads and 1% of others, the benefit of cameras (even if they eliminated speeding altogether) is vanishingly small compared to other factors applying everywhere, all the time, including by far the most significant, distraction and momentary loss of concentration.

I approve of courses which improve drivers' abilities (if they do not exaggerate the significance of speeding) but if camera costs were eliminated, courses could be provided at much lower cost on a voluntary not press-gang basis. More benefit at lower cost with less resentment. What's not to like?
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (8) | Disagree (23)

The road transport system runs relatively smoothly because the actors within it "Do What Everybody Else Does"(DWEED).

A DWEED system however does not mean that actors do exactly what everybody else does, but instead they do roughly what everybody else does (a statistician will call this a variation around a mean). Individuals within such systems might exhibit extremely anomalous behaviour from time to time, but they tend to be very much in the minority.

Speed awareness courses seem to be targeted at those individuals who sit within the limits of expected variation within the DWEED system and although the punisher might get some satisfaction from putting people on these courses, the overall effect on the system will probably be zero.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (10) | Disagree (14)

I see that a request was made if a link to the full report could be provided. As Alan Prossor from TTC has posted regarding the report, is it possible for Alan to post the link to the report.

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Those that believe that anyone who attends such a course and expresses to others that they will not do it again, must be reminded about a friend of mine with 9 points who went on a course and then a month or two later was found speeding at 48mph in a 30 limit. The presumption that if one states that one has changed, that one has in fact changed, is a wrongly based fallicy.

Its just the same as making a New Year's resolution. One believes, and sometime vehemently so, in what one believes and says and a few months later its all gone to the wall. That is human nature.

I agree with Eric in that the courses should go deeper. Only with a greater understanding of the whole of road safety will we ever get an opportunity to change behavioural patterns.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (17) | Disagree (3)

If Professor Martin undertook an in depth 18 month research project into the efficacy of the Speed Awareness Course why is it that he can only state in his words “The benefit of the course occurred immediately and persisted several weeks after course delivery".

With an 18 month research project were there no longer term follow ups of those 1,311 attendees. Or is the effectiveness of such courses actually very short term?

On the one hand he states the courses have “long term impact” on driving behaviour, then follows up with a comment that the benefits persisted for several weeks after the course.

I must admit that when I hear the term Long Term in a road safety initiative sense I would hope it is more than several weeks.
Keith Doyle

Agree (18) | Disagree (1)

My answer to Neil is that all drivers should have the opportunity to receive training in "better driving", which is so much more than "understanding the risks of speed" - it's about improving observation, concentration, anticipation, recognising and dealing with hazards, creating safety margins (space around your vehicle).

My understanding from the information here and elsewhere, is that the main message from speed awareness courses is "slower is safer" - apart from being a dangerously simplistic message, it is a missed opportunity to convey more encompassing and useful ways of improving drivers and driving.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (14) | Disagree (16)

My understanding and reading of the other reports that you have mentioned and the efficacy of the said programme is that the results are based upon self-reported behaviour change. As I believe is stated in the Brainbox study, self-reported behaviour change as a means to gather the evidence was decided upon due to costs.

In a recent post on this forum, ACPO had reported that 99% of those attending a speed awareness course had said that it changed their driving. Any Constabularies' own internal research department would not use such methodology.

Am I correct in stating that some of those on the panel that provided the advice with regard to the development of the Speed Awareness Programme were then commissioned by NDORS or ACPO to evaluate their own programme in the Brainbox Research quoted above?

I cannot see that the populous accept sweeping statements of the efficacy of Speed Awareness Programmes based upon the evidence of around 1,300 former clients of such courses who completed self-reported behaviour change forms.

This makes interesting reading:
Keith Doyle

Agree (14) | Disagree (0)

This isn't the first piece of research to support the use of Speed Awareness Courses as methods of behavioural change.

BrainBox research published this in July 2011:

You'll also find this further report useful since it explains, in some depth, the various psychological models of behavioural change which road safety practitioners can consider in delivering interventions:

Effective Interventions for Speeding Motorists:

My question, for those querying the efficacy of the Course, is fairly straight-forward: What intervention would you suggest as an alternative to receiving a fine and points? What do YOU think would assist drivers in changing their behaviours, understanding the risks of speed and constructing an intention to mitigate that risk?
Neil Hopkins, Sussex Safer Roads Partnership

Agree (10) | Disagree (7)

It used to be the case at least with some courses that those who attended were warned that unless they demonstrated an improved attitude they would still be fined and given penalty points on top of paying the course fee.

Did the same apply to these drivers? And if so what did the researchers expect them to say when asked if they were going to be good boys and girls from then on?

To misquote slightly Mandy Rice-Davis' infamous but highly effective reply from the witness box in the Profuma case trial, "They would, wouldn't they?"
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (13) | Disagree (19)

Is it possible to be provided a link to the full report so that methodology and measure taken can be viewed with regard to the report. With regard to the Theory of Planned Behaviour is it not correct that Past Behaviour is not accounted for and is a moderate indicator for an individual's likelihood of future behaviour. This may well be true for the case of driving which is a frequent behaviour.

Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

There seems to be a basic lack of understanding about academic research and how it is funded and peer reviewed. If we only accepted research that was independently funded, there would be very little undertaken in any field. Define independent? Most people have some opinions about matters of road safety, driver education so how do you ensure true independence from your sponsor?

More seriously, to accuse Aston University of partiality in a study like this is a serious professional charge for which absolutely no evidence has been supplied. It is easy to e-mail a statement like this and I note most were made shortly after the original story was published - before the correspondents had even had time to locate and read the report so cannot have been evidence based.
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

Agree (21) | Disagree (7)

How can the study be independent when it was commissioned and part funded by the parent organisation of the course deliverer?
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

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The evaluation was commissioned by the TTC Group, a not-for-profit’ road safety organisation, as part of an 18 month Knowledge Transfer Partnership (Government backed initiative) that was jointly funded by Aston University in Birmingham and the TTC Group. It was a fully independent longitudinal research study carried out by a full-time KTP Associate working with Professor Robin Martin. The project was steered by a group of key stakeholders working within the road safety sector.

The theory of planned behaviour states that attitude toward behaviour, subjective norms, and perceived behavioural control, together shape an individual's behavioural intentions and behaviours. This recognises that a person's stated intention is a positive indicator of future behaviour. Engineering, enforcement and education interventions are all integrated vital facets in the work to reduce road casualties, and create safer road environments within our communities. The speed awareness workshop offers offenders the opportunity to access, what is now shown to be, a valuable and positive educational process.
Alan Prosser, NDORS Development Director, TTC2000

Agree (17) | Disagree (7)

Surely any benefits are positive towards making roads safer and should be encouraged. The alternative option to education is punishment. Not sure how 3 Points/fine or prosecution improve road safety or raise awareness. As I understand it the research focused on intentions as the most appropriate proxi measure to predict future behaviour and the time span to indicate the longevity of impact again is a proxi indicator (being 6 weeks). Therefore 'intention' is a reliable measure of future behaviour (if I have stated intention to do something, I am more likely to carry this through in the future) short of following drivers around in the car 24/7 which is not realistic/desirable etc. In my view this independent piece of road safety research should be commended rather than criticised.
D Morrison, Derbyshire

Agree (29) | Disagree (4)

I agree with Bob - who funded this research? Declaration of "intent to modify future driving behaviour" for a few weeks is about as intangible as it gets, and that is from the "soft targets" (generally compliant drivers). There is nothing here to suggest a real long term benefit from these courses, especially for "harder targets".
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (14) | Disagree (24)

Dare I ask what authority/organisation initiated this report? It seems that whilst it commented initially on the positives of such a course it later backpedalled, identifying an increasing number of attendees who would not in any way shape or form benefit from attendance.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (11) | Disagree (15)