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Speed Awareness course: Chris Burnham

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Chris Burnham

Having been recently caught for a speeding offence, you could be forgiven for thinking this is one of those born again do-gooders condescendingly preaching above the parapet of the non-deserving. But that is never further from the truth.

Indeed, I have been caught, and although angry at the very people who continue to get away with habitual racing and disregard for other people’s safety, it was only a matter of time for me who, not by any means dangerous by comparison, was always pushing my luck.

So why then am I writing this article? Well I have realised that there is a lot to gain by learning from my past misdemeanours, and if I can help in showing that it really isn’t a bad thing to join with me in my new ways, it just may improve the concepts of other road users and, to coin a cliché, make the roads safer, and the world a better place for everyone.

I will say, that I did succumb to the option of a speed awareness course, in order to preserve my clean licence, and must admit at first, I considered this course as a formality, and that I would not learn anything I didn’t already know. Furthermore, I still believe that, as with most traffic cameras, they are still just there to make money. We can always have another debate on this, but for now I will just say that, two tutors, a venue, two four-hour sessions at £90 from every person attending. So ballpark figures, approximately 60 x £90 for one day’s course, well you do the maths.

Consequences of rushing

So here’s a thing though. I did learn a thing or two – some statistics, some stuff about roads, some techniques, but for me the main thing I realised is something that didn’t really come up on the course at all. The very fact that any time spent trying to get somewhere faster than the roads allow, the impatience of trying to get passed a slower vehicle in front of you, would possibly save no more than seconds in time, possibly stretch to a few minutes, on a longer journey. Think about this for a second. Even if you manage to find a clear road, and hammer along at break neck speeds, the time saved in the actual journey is still only a few minutes or a few seconds.

With this in mind, think of the consequences of rushing faster than the limit allows. Maybe there will be an obstruction, a kid, an animal, another vehicle, a hazard in the road itself, a speed camera. The consequences of running into any of these could have a lasting effect on your future, emotionally and financially. If you were to be unfortunate enough to hit someone, your conscience may prohibit you from ever sitting behind the wheel again. Arguably, with some drivers this is not such a bad thing, but if we assume most people are normal ordinary people, certainly it did appear so on the course I was on, this would affect the average person in devastation or guilt of having injured or killed someone or an animal. Let alone the financial impact of maybe damage to the car, or impending legal actions of anything which follows. There is every chance of avoiding all of this.

Most times there will be no consequence. Most times you will get away with it. But if you are a regular driver like me, it will happen sooner or later. So what’s the point then. Well since my time when the lightbulb flickered on, I have realised that this is what I am going to do for my own peace of mind.

This is a little like dieting or giving up smoking – hard at first but will get easier as time passes. But it has to be a change in lifestyle, no good in dieting for a few months then piling the weight back on.

How I’ve changed my ways

Well firstly it helps, in my opinion, if you have cruise control on your car – this is a blessing. This may sound a bit weird as the first thing I bring up, but I believe all vehicles should have cruise control fitted as standard – as important as indicators on a BMW. I think that too many drivers spend far too much time responding to changes in speed zones, and looking down at their speedometers than actually watching the road ahead. And as it was proved on the course, response times are gauged in split-seconds – the time it takes to glance at a speedometer dial. If there is technology available with eliminates the need for continual checking of speed then I am all for it. I see a speed restriction and immediately (traffic permitting) set my cruise control to that speed. Obviously, if there is traffic going slower than the limit or obstructions than there will be no need.

So what if it’s really early in the morning and there is nothing around right. Nothing is going to be in the road. Well yes, maybe, but this is a bit like giving up on that diet or having a sneaky fag when you’re supposed to have given up. This is the hardest bit about my new lifestyle change. I do without fail keep to the limits now whatever time it is – and believe me it does get easier. Now I think I am at a point where I just can’t allow myself to go faster than allowed due to my own peace of mind.

Even when there are headlights looming up behind or the devilish appearance of the next space-age Audi just willing you out of their way, I remain calm and rest in the fact that I may be actually saving a life today – and the Audi driver’s licence. ‘You’re welcome’, I’ll mutter to myself. Probably the hardest thing to ignore the urge to speed up into the clear open road ahead when a tailgating Range Rover is right behind your bumper.

I won’t be fooled again

There is one other thing which has become obvious to me as the safer journeys mount. By always being within the speed limits, I can rest easy that I will not be pulled over for breaking the law or caught by another speed camera. They can point what they like in my direction, and in the words of Roger Daltrey, ‘I won’t get fooled again’.

So in conclusion, although I have given up the excitement of travelling in excess and the thrill of a powerful machine at my disposal, I feel empowered to do what I think is right. If anyone has taken the time to read this, I really hope they see things from my point of view. Since that moment, I realised I have not been late and arrive knowing that I have reduced the risk of not arriving at all.

I still get annoyed by other road users – the middle-lane hoggers and the driver who drives at a constant speed while speeding through a 30mph zone and then staying at 40mph when the road opens up to a 60mph. The driver who cuts across lanes at a roundabout and is oblivious to any chaos they are causing. The driver who slows on a slip road to a major carriageway and causes a hazard when drivers behind are trying to join a motorway. Tailgaters in their BMW or Audi, who think they are the only drivers allowed to use the roads. And, of course, the boyracers and ‘Gary-boys’ who constantly treat their cars as status symbols and have no consideration for the law, other people, animals or property – these are the worst of the worst. But enough of my complaining, this is for another day.

I appreciate that not everyone will agree with me and that for some there will never be a moment where there will be the right thing to do. Some will still be affected by the consequences of a moment of madness. But if this helps to change the outlook of just a few, then I am glad I took the time to write it. Good luck out there.

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