A few years ago I was flashed by a speed camera. Apparently – although I continue to swear it wasn’t me and anyway even if it was, and I’m not saying that, it was all a terrible mistake – I was speeding at 37 miles per hour in a 30 zone, they alleged. As you can expect I fulminated and fumed. I cursed and cried bitter tears of frustration about the injustice of it all. Above me the skies darkened and it began to rain in sympathy and even the clouds seemed somehow sad.
‘You silly sausage’ said my wife (not her exact words). The irony of it was that although my number one car at the time was a Porsche, I was actually driving my Mazda 3 runabout. I waited and in due time I received my just deserts in the form of a fine and three penalty points for my sins. It’s not the cash you understand so much as the abuse of my licence. They couldn’t even be bothered to print the SP30; it was scrawled on by the hand of some evil troll. I might just as well have done it myself.
In these days of digital automation there is no chance of covering up offences like speeding so you just have to bite the bullet and grass yourself up to the insurance company before the system does it for you and my goodness aren’t they vindictive when you do? At the next premium renewal I was duly chastised by a further financial penalty.
There is always, don’t you think, an all-pervading sense of holier-than-thou about the whole business. You are clobbered for cash by the system and then again by some anonymous suits somewhere. Suddenly you are somehow a serial offender. It is assumed that, because you made a mistake once, you will do it repeatedly and that you are clearly a danger to society. It’s a wonder they don’t just bang you up.
Obviously this trouser-pocket lining by insurance companies is nothing new. Although legally your penalty is, like an exhausted randy monk, ‘spent’ after four years, your insurer will continue to hold it against you for a further twelve months even though it may well be your one and only transgression. In short, it is legalised theft.
Of course, if the offence isn’t too grave then rather than taking the dreaded points these days you might instead be offered the chance to fork out a sum and go on a course whereby you are soundly patronised for a day by an official bloke in a portakabin situated on some dubious industrial estate. Fair enough; you just grin and bear it I guess. I was never offered the option so I asked some people who have taken it. Most said that, in fact, they learned something and that the exercise was in general worthwhile. They believed that they would be the better for it. That’s a good thing.
What’s not so good though is the creepingly insidious news that although your licence remains pristine, your soul does not; at least in the eyes of the insurance companies. Offenders believe that as they didn’t get points and dutifully attended the course then their premiums will not be affected. This is the common view and this, as they say, ain’t necessarily so.
Obviously, like points, if an offender fails to declare that a course has been taken, it could actually invalidate insurance if later involved in an accident. That’s the first thing. Further, most drivers opting for the course do so because they believe it bypasses any insurer involvement at all which means that come the renewal day they are none the wiser when their premium skyrockets.
This is because insurers are now keen to charge you a higher premium for taking a speed awareness course. Not only is this sneaky, underhand and unfair, it is also completely counter-intuitive. As mentioned, offenders leave the course suitably chastised and with the resolve to be a better driver; if they just take the points and the cash penalty they have learned nothing at all except frustration and bitterness.
A day of lectures about the Code of Driving and the dangers of speed delivers a meaningful consequence. Any reasonable person, no matter how gifted at the wheel, should agree with that. That motorists are penalised by insurers for choosing re-education over a fine and points is baffling. It’s a proven fact that records show a positive rehabilitation rate among drivers taking these courses, proving that prevention is preferable to nasty medicine.
This is another thing that is slightly sickening about rip-off Britain. We have rules of the road so although at the time of your misdemeanour you will tear your hair and rend your raiment, the fact is that is it how it has to be otherwise it would like an automotive jungle out there. Unfortunately, some insurers don’t see it that way. It’s not about moral or legal censure; it’s all about the money. Don’t let them stitch you up – drive safe. Geoff Maxted.