The choice of a speed awareness course is only offered if your speed is naughty rather than shocking: the formula is the speed limit plus ten per cent, plus 9mph as the upper level.
However, this formula is not mandatory and is subject to local police discretion – some forces will not offer it if you are speeding in a 20mph zone, others will. The course has no particular legal standing and you are unlikely to be offered a repeat if you have already attended in the last three years: the database is now centralised so a course offered by the Met will be known by Cheshire Constabulary. And so on…
I have been on one of these courses and in pretty well every situation it is worth taking a day’s leave and sitting through the eight hour detention at a driver re-education camp. The cost (£70 to £120) is usually less than the fine and as far as I am aware only Admiral Insurance ask the question: ‘have you been on a driver awareness course?’ on a policy proposal…
The rules on declaration for an ordinary consumer on a contract of insurance are pretty straight forward: if asked a question you must answer it honestly, with a reasonable amount of care, if another Insurer does not ask the question then you do not have to volunteer the information, but if you do go on any form of police instigated driver improvement course do check your renewal forms.
‘Auto-renewal’ is a brilliant little scam for insurers because the onus is on we the consumers to check the details, if it slips your mind and the premium leaves your account and you are unfortunate enough to have to make a claim they will scrutinise every aspect.
In my experience some insurers deserve to be trusted while many more do not and they will try everything to wriggle out of payment: if your insurer has asked you about a driver improvement course at question 27b of your renewal and you do not declare it, you will not be paid if your bike is stolen.
I can only speak from my own driver improvement course, which was in 2012, from which I learned a few useful things. It was not especially dull and I did not feel as though I was in a school detention. Our instructor was a former Police class 1 driver and motorcyclist, and was far from preachy. Other feedback that I have heard has been a lot less positive.
It seems to me that the driver improvement course has simply monetised what used to happen – when we actually had police officers who patrolled roads, pulled over drivers, deployed a proper verbal going over if said driver was speeding before sending the offender on his/her way with a flea in their ear.
Finally, if offered a course, get there on time. I know of at least one solicitor who was offered a course, turned up a few minutes late due to traffic congestion only to have the offer withdrawn and points applied to his licence.
Bike Magazine October 2019