Speeding drivers may be educated rather than fined

Average speed cameras on the A9. Picture: Peter Jolly
Average speed cameras on the A9. Picture: Peter Jolly
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DRIVERS caught travelling just over the speed limit in Scotland could be offered speed awareness courses instead of being fined, transport minister Derek Mackay has signalled.

Mr Mackay said he “supported the concept of driver education as an alternative to prosecution where appropriate”.

Such courses are seen as popular and successful in reducing re-offending south of the Border, but are not run in Scotland.

In England, the courses are generally run for drivers caught at up to 10 per cent above the limit plus 9mph – for example: up to 42mph in a 30mph limit or 86mph in a 70mph limit.

Drivers who go on the courses can also avoid penalty points on their licence.

Mr Mackay said officials were discussing whether they would be “an appropriate addition to our efforts to tackle road traffic offences in Scotland and what barriers might exist to setting them up”.

The minister said the group “recognised the difficulty in evidencing behavioural change”.

The possible move was revealed in a letter published yesterday by the Scottish Conservatives, who have called for the measure.

Justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said she had urged ministers to consider it following an increase in the number of speeders caught under a crackdown by Police Scotland.

Ms Mitchell said: “Given the increase in traffic convictions, it is surely time to consider an alternative for those who are not significantly over the speed limit. Offering speed awareness courses would be a more effective alternative to points and a hefty fine.

“Motorists – many of whom rely on their car for work and family – consider they are being disproportionately targeted by over-zealous crackdowns.

“I’m glad therefore that the Scottish Government is now looking at this in an effort to put in place a fairer system which prioritises safer driving.”

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) backed courses but said finding evidence they worked was a problem.

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Policy director Neil Greig said: “The IAM are long-time supporters of alternatives to prosecution but progress has been slow as we try to convince the advocate general’s office that speed awareness courses work and cut ­reoffending. The problem is there is not that much clear evidence and everyone is waiting for a major [UK] Department for Transport study that is still some months off, which aims to answer the question once and for all.

“The courses are not an easy option and do put a driver’s behaviour under public scrutiny – often for the first time since they passed their test.”

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “If you listen to many of the hundreds of thousands of people who complete the courses each year, they are a great success and a sobering experience.

“The trouble is that as yet we have no independent assessment of their effectiveness.”

AA president Edmund King said: “Feedback from drivers in England and Wales who have attended these courses is excellent and we believe this opportunity for education over prosecution should be offered to drivers in Scotland.”

The Scottish Government said its “road safety framework to 2020”, published six years ago, included a commitment to consider speed awareness courses.

Its spokesman said: “We are currently taking this forward with key partners such as Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Police Scotland and the safety camera programme. There is general support amongst our road safety partners.”