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Legal guide to UK motoring, sections for law enforcement, Driver licensing, learner and new drivers, buying and selling, speeding fines, owning a vehicle, wheel clamping, traffic information.
          NATIONAL SPEED AWARENESS COURSE

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Association of Chief Police Officer of England,
Wales & Northern Ireland

GUIDANCE FOR THE INTRODUCTION OF A NATIONAL SPEED
AWARENESS COURSE

Background National Speed Awareness Course
Enforcement Introduction
Driver Improvement Scheme Course presentation - Theory
Speed Diversion Scheme Course aims and objectives
  The consequences of misusing speed

Status: This Road Policing Business Area Guidance, which encourages the development of Speed Awareness Courses at a national level similar to other driver offender retraining courses, was approved on 30 January 2006 through the Head of the Road Policing Business Area. It is disclosable under the FOIA 2000, has been registered and audited in line with ACPO requirements and is subject of Copyright.

Background

As a direct result of the review of road traffic offending by Dr. North, the police service initiated and still encourages the widespread use of National Driver Improvement courses for minor lapses in attention leading to offences of careless driving.

The movement to diversionary courses in place of prosecution has its origin in the Road Traffic Review 1988, undertaken by Dr Peter North. He pointed out that it was in the public interest to rectify faults rather than punish the transgressor. He highlighted re-training of traffic offenders as a way that might lead to improvement in driving, particularly if the training was angled towards those failings. The police service in a further response to his findings and in its quest to improve road safety and reduce casualties is keen to educate instead of prosecute low-end speed offenders, who may have had a lapse of attention, rather than deliberately breaking the law.

There are currently two main ways in which the motoring public are prosecuted for exceeding the speed limit; officers witnessing or investigating an offence or cameras deployed through a safety Camera Partnership.

Officers (operators) witnessing the commission of a speed offence will normally have corroborative evidence, which includes a type approved device (including mobile cameras). They are in a position to use discretion at the time the offence is committed, as they actually witness its commission and are aware of surrounding factors on the approach to the site and at the time the offence was committed. In many situations they will also speak to the driver and have explanations.

Fixed safety camera equipment has only photographs which cannot show those other factors, only the speed and time of day of the offence and limited environmental conditions. Decision makers may have historical information on the site and the site collision history, but will not be aware of surrounding factors of the specific offence.

Each method of detection must be considered separately when considering all methods of offence disposal, including speed awareness.

If the police are to introduce speed awareness as a means of disposal to offer the errant driver an opportunity to adapt their behaviour, then it is necessary that criteria be set to allow consistent national rollout of speed awareness for safety camera partnerships and police officer enforcement alike.

It has to be accepted that with safety cameras or fixed site cameras there is a much higher likelihood of drivers being detected than would be the case with operational officer or mobile speed camera deployment and enforcement will often be at lower levels. As highlighted above, cameras themselves cannot use discretion and the photographs show only a restricted view of the circumstances of the offence, whereas officers detecting violators can consider the site, time of day, weather, driver behaviour and mitigation as well as other road users present, before they decide on whether to report the offence.

Enforcement

Results from safety camera sites now show beyond doubt that speed enforcement reduces collisions if targeted in the right areas. It is necessary therefore for the police service to be as active as it can in enforcing the speed limits across all roads where collisions occur, and down towards the current ACPO 'bottom level' threshold 3of 10%+2, at least to a level whereby the best casualty reduction is achieved. However, enforcement does not have to be prosecution alone, it can be by way of education and should be appropriate to the offence so as to maintain public confidence, be consistent and above all fair.

It is quite possible that if all camera sites were set at 10%+2 and all drivers prosecuted, we could lose vital general public support for remote camera enforcement, something we currently have. If there are other ways of disposal after enforcement that equally achieve the road safety benefit and most importantly the level of casualty reduction we are ultimately aiming for, then we should at least try those methods.

Enforcement and disposal of offenders

The police service have published ACPO ‘bottom level’ thresholds below which prosecution should not be undertaken; this is 10%+2 mph at all speeds (except 20mph, where speed awareness will not be offered). Over time the police have agreed that the service will incrementally reduce enforcement levels toward the ACPO ‘bottom level’ thresholds, where the road conditions and other specific site conditions support enforcement. It must however be clear that when considering speed awareness as a disposal that:

Enforcement is the level above which an offender is reported for an offence,

Prosecution is the level above which the disposal will be through fixed penalty or court appearance.

It is a duty of the police service to use discretion and adjudicate on the facts when deciding how to dispose of an offence, which might be by way of

warning, (either formal or informal)
diversion,
a programme of education, and or;
prosecution.

Traditionally the police service has only had a choice between warning, prosecution or 'no action'.

There has been a call from a number of police forces and road safety interest groups for other interventions, not just prosecution, and in particular national speed diversion. There are several forces that have already introduced their own ad-hoc speed awareness course on a local basis, which then suffer from a lack of consistency and fairness particularly when offenders are not local.

Local courses, without national provision, are a disadvantage to offenders who are visitors to the force area and who may not be able to take advantage of a similar course in their home area. They may have additional costs for accommodation, travel and greater loss of earnings, overall, more than the costs borne by local offenders. However, having said this, they are offered a course and can return to the area where they committed the offence, thereby avoiding penalty points, which is the same disposal as that for local residents. People returning to the area where the offence was committed may consider they are better off than those caught speeding in areas where currently there are no speed awareness courses and fines and penalty points are awarded for low end speeds such as 35mph in a 30mph restricted area.

Speed Diversion

The police service remains supportive and focussed on casualty reduction and the protection of the public and their property when using the roads lawfully. At the same time the service is aware of the need to be fair, consistent and transparent, as well as sympathetic to mistake and minor error and aware of the need to retain public support for our actions.

Speed diversion has been raised as a suitable and developing disposal for low-level infringements detected by police officers and remote equipment deployed by safety camera partnerships as well as the police. Introducing this as another means of disposal for low-level offenders on a national basis is one way of achieving this. However, it has to be accompanied by a procedure that restricts the number of times this alternative measure is offered to an offender. The time is right therefore for courses to be more tightly controlled so as to be consistent and reliably deployed across the country.

The National Driver Offender Retraining Steering Group (N-DORS)4, previously the National Driver Improvement Scheme Steering Group (NDISSG)5, see this as consistent with the ethos of driver re-training and will oversee this with other driver re-training diversionary schemes. This will enable the National Speed Diversion Scheme as well as National Driver Improvement Scheme to adapt to legislative changes and any later post court training sentencing, should this be introduced by the Government at a later date.


Current Position - Driver Improvement Scheme

Since 1991 all forces in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are actively using Driver Improvement Schemes as an alternative to prosecution for careless driving offences where a driver's mistake, rather than intent or dangerous action, has led to a collision. It is possible to offer such a course for drivers not involved in a collision but found to be careless and in both cases it must only be offered, if an officer feels they would benefit from an improvement course.

The scheme is designed to make a driver aware of and if possible correct poor driving behaviour arising from errors of judgement without the need to bring the case to court. The scheme is managed locally by a designated officer in each police force and nationally through a steering group (N-DORS). The group is advised by ANDISP 6and DSA and has a PACTS7 representative as the independent advisor. This process ensures courses are provided by competent bodies who are members of ANDISP and that those courses are consistent and available for local offenders as well as offenders from other force areas who do not live locally. There are national guidelines for the procedure and courses as well as a national database to manage the referral process.

It would be sensible to use the current National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme structure and guidelines rather than start again and so it has been decided to be appropriate for the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme to take speed diversion as an additional area for education of certain speed offenders. This will result in the national steering group providing national specimen contracts for service providers, the national database for referral records and for providers to come from ANDISP approved providers.


Speed Diversion Scheme

Consistent courses, standard initiation criteria, approved providers and as soon as possible countrywide provision so as to allow local attendance by offenders who commit offences at non-local sites.

Observed incidents of inappropriate speed

Officers witnessing an offence, where prosecution is not seen as the best disposal given the circumstances of the offence, will identify suitable offenders:

1 Who are within the criteria set out in this policy
2 Who are outside the criteria but who would benefit from speed diversion or driver improvement.

Automatic Enforcement or Adjudication - Cases Outside General Criteria

remote or technical enforcement, back office decisions must follow the national guidelines but with consideration of any specific criteria allocated to the individual site. It is accepted that from time to time letters of mitigation or other representations may influence a decision maker's deliberations as to an appropriate method of disposal, making speed awareness appropriate in cases where it might otherwise not meet the criteria in this scheme.

General Speed Diversion Scheme

If this is to be as successful as Driver Improvement Schemes are, then it will need consistent courses, initiation criteria, approved providers, contract guidance and as soon as possible countrywide provision to allow local attendance by offenders who commit offences at non-local sites.

Policy

Having highlighted the need for speed diversion and the need for a truly national scheme the following policy will apply:

1.
Speed diversion courses will meet the current national specification of content and presentation as endorsed by ACPO (NDORS). (see appendix A)

2. Suitable offenders will be offered other suitable venues for the national course provided by other police forces, not only the course provided by the areas where the offence was committed.

3. Courses offered only when the offence meets the ACPO national standard for referral of offenders, as outlined in this policy document. Forces would consider sites and local needs and then introduce courses at a decided enforcement level within the agreed criteria. (including the 3-year without a course criterion)

4. Speed Diversion courses provided to the interim approved course specification (appendix A). (Which for now will be classroom based with an additional on-road module if required, this are intermediate courses between August 2005 and April 2006 (or until the national generic model is agreed)).

5. Department for Transport research into the eventual national generic model to be published in 2006 and adopted by all participating forces by a date to be agreed

6. Forces who are currently providing Speed Diversion Courses, for bottom end offenders, to realign their existing policy, procedure and course provision to fall in line with this national policy guidance.

7. Courses should be provided on a non-profit basis i.e. with costs kept as low as possible.

8. Course charges are to include a small element for the recording on the DVLA database and may include a small charge to the police service for administration. This will be within the charges shown at (7).

9. Forces deciding to introduce speed diversion doing so by adopting this ACPO guidance.

Methodology - Intervention and Decision Making

With consistency and fairness in mind forces adopting national speed diversion as part of their speed enforcement policy will implement the following national disposal decision criteria.

Criteria limits are set for access to the national speed awareness scheme.

The access criteria are meant to be a band within which there is some flexibility.

Nothing in this document is meant to limit the discretion of the police to dispose of cases appropriately - but if it is linked to one that is under the national speed awareness scheme then the criteria must be adopted.

Initiation Criteria

It is necessary that there are cut-offs so as to ensure a level of consistency nationally, that is, a lower level below which national speed awareness is not suitable and an upper-level above which it is not given. It has, therefore, been necessary to agree levels that appear reasonable and to leave any final decision for individual forces taking into account their decided prosecution level, site conditions and other local attendant circumstances.


Speed awareness - Police officer enforcement.


A police officer who witnesses an offence is in a much better position to decide whether a course of instruction is appropriate than is a decision-maker viewing camera photograph. For this reason it is accepted that:

Any offender could be offered speed diversion if the speed was within the criteria 10%+2 to 10%+6 (same as speed camera). The officer could be using a speed detection device or a safety camera in this circumstance; the important issue is the witnessing of the offence and surrounding conditions.

If the offender was driving at speeds above the speed diversion limit of 10%+6, the offence was observed by a police officer and that officer is satisfied that it is poor driving behaviour rather than a persistent violator, then the offender could be offered a Driver Improvement Course. Such offenders should not be sent on a national speed awareness course. (This would not stop a force sending those over the 10%+6 to a specific course provided outside of this national course, or on a course agreed by N-DORS as a specific project)

Speed awareness - Safety Camera Enforcement


Cases not witnessed by an officer who can use discretion to decide on the appropriateness of a speed awareness course, automatic enforcement.

If a force accepts speed diversion then:

The police service will consider giving offenders a speed awareness course at an enforcement threshold somewhere between 10%+2 and 10%+6 if the offender has not had such a course in the last 3 years and it is considered appropriate and beneficial given the site and prevailing conditions.

Any offender captured on Safety Cameras where they are travelling over the posted speed limit above the ACPO prosecution criteria of 10%+2, by a speed below their prosecution threshold but not above the set level of 10%+6, will be offered speed diversion if the site conditions are suitable.

Monitoring


Speed Awareness Courses will be offered to any driver who meets the individual force cutoff level within the national band and who has not previously attended a course within the last 3 years (authenticated by entry on the DVLA Database). This will not be affected in any way by a driver's age (assuming they hold a driving licence), gender or ethnic origin.

Officers will, when initially stopping the driver for the speeding offence, follow normal procedure in relation to the fixed penalty notice regarding the recording of age, gender or ethnic origin. Safety Camera Offices and Ticket Offices will further capture this information in the process relating to the Notification of Offer of a Speed Awareness Course.

The ANDISP provider of the Speed Awareness Course will cater for clients with disabilities or special needs and again take note of the age, gender and ethnic origin of the client.

This information will be held on record and be available for any diversity monitoring that may be required at a later date.




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