If you opt to attend a course, rather than accept penalty points, you could be in for a nasty surprise when you inform your insurer.
In the UK, motorists committing minor motoring offences for the first time are sometimes offered a choice: rather than a three-point penalty and a £100 fine they can opt to attend a National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS), and such is the complexity of traffic offences there are many different courses covering a wide range of misdemeanors.
Most police forces offer a course to drivers who are caught speeding between 10% plus 2 and 10% plus 9 of the legal limit. In other words, if you get caught driving between 35mph and 42mph in a 30mph zone, or between 79mph and 86mph in a 70mph zone.
But as exclusive research from Caddick Davies has highlighted, being offered a place on a driving course can often depend on where you live or where you were stopped.
Attending a course could mean, though, that as well as being out of pocket in terms of the fine you have to pay; you’re insurance premium is likely to go up too. In fact, premiums can rise by between 10% and 30% depending on your insurer.
Neil Davies, Senior Partner at Caddick Davies, says: “This is perhaps typical of the relationship between insurers and motorists, whereby as motor insurance is a compulsory requirement by law, the motorist is caught between a rock and a hard place, with insurers taking full advantage to profit. Using the fact that a motorist has sought to educate themselves of the dangers of speeding is however, a new low point”.
Admiral Group is one insurer that increases premiums. A spokesman at the firm said: “Attending a speed awareness course is something we take into account when calculating a premium. Although a speed awareness course is a replacement for penalty points, it doesn’t change the fact that the person involved has committed a speeding offence.
“Our claims statistics show that drivers who have committed a speeding offence are a higher risk than drivers who do not commit speeding offences in the first place.”
However, Ian Crowder, a spokesman for the AA, disputes this. “Actuarially, those who have committed a speeding offence are more likely to go on to make a fault claim,” he says. “But those who go on a speed awareness course learn something, don’t collect points and we believe, go on to be better drivers and thus less likely to make a fault claim.”
Robertson agrees. “Increasing a motorist’s premium simply because they have attended a speed awareness course is utterly unfair,” she says. “Unlike a fixed penalty or court-endorsed speeding offence, a speed awareness course does not in any way represent a conviction.”
Attending a speed awareness course makes drivers aware of the dangers of speeding, Robertson adds. “It should be seen as a positive move, not something to be punished for with an increased insurance premium.”
The Department of Transport is carrying out a study to find out if this is the case. In the meantime, motorists should shop around for the best deal.
Unlike penalty points, insurance firms cannot check whether a driver has taken a speed awareness course unless they admit to it, as this information is held by local police forces rather than the DVLA. However, if you fail to reveal that you have and later make a claim, you could find that your policy is invalid.
Opting for points on your licence as an alternative to attending a speeding course is likely to increase your insurance premium even further. Points are considered an admission of guilt and a legal conviction. Figures from the AA show that drivers with a single speeding conviction are 10-12% more likely to make a claim than those with a clean licence. It is therefore no surprise that the more penalty points someone has recorded on their licence, the more likely drivers are to face increases in their insurance premiums.
According to the AA, a first speeding conviction might typically add about 12.2% to premiums. For example, a 35-year-old Ford Mondeo driver in Gloucester could expect to see his annual premium increase from £569 to £639.
While a second offence, would see premiums rise by an average 34.1% – adding £218 to an annual bill.
Although the courts only consider convictions to be relevant for a period of three years from the date of the offence, some insurers take penalty points into account for a period of five years.
See what courses your local police force offers drivers who have been convicted of a motoring offence with our Caddick Davies interactive map.