Motorists may be faced with big increases to their car insurance premiums if they choose to take a speed awareness course over paying a fine or taking penalty points on their licence when they are caught speeding. This follows an investigation by media that found car insurance premiums rose for some drivers when they told their insurer they went to a speed awareness course. However, police and course instructors say that attending one of these courses will prevent premium hikes.
This research was conducted by the BBC, which found that one male driver in their twenties saw his car insurance premium rise by £300 after telling Elephant that he took a speed awareness course. Another Elephant customer’s rate rose £80 after telling the company they took the course. Last year, some 772,430 motorists completed a speed awareness course across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The year before, some 447,724 drivers took the course.
The media group also found that other motorists have been given the incentive of taking such a course with the promise that their rates wouldn’t change. A speed awareness course can cost more than the average £60 speeding fine. If the price of a driver’s insurance policy rises as well, they can be left significantly out of pocket. Police don’t consider taking a speed awareness course a conviction, but the investigation by the BBC found that some insurers still consider it so.
Admiral Group, which operates Elephant, lists the courses as an offence online. The company says that statistics show motorists who have taken a course are higher risk than those who haven’t. A spokesperson says the course is a replacement for penalty points, so it doesn’t change the fact that the policyholder committed the speeding offence. Such drivers can be higher risk, so those who take the course are considered more likely to make a claim.
However, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) told the BBC that premium hikes on motorists who take speed awareness courses may harm the purpose behind the courses, which is to make everyone safer on the road. Deputy chief constable Suzette Davenport says taking a course isn’t a punishment. They argue that this is about improving the safety of the nation’s roads to reduce risk, so rising insurance premiums is a concern. She’s received many letters saying that the course is good and that the driver will do things differently. The course is doing what it’s designed to do, so it’s unfair that insurers are loading premiums.
An independent ACPO survey of over 2,000 drivers who have taken the course found that 99% claim to have changed their driving behaviour as a result. Davenport also told consumer group Which? that police want to improve safety, which is what speed awareness courses are designed to do. The courses raise road safety awareness and reduce risk, so it’s inappropriate for premiums to be hiked on drivers who have educated themselves. She added that motorists shouldn’t be deterred for making themselves more informed on road safety.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI), which represents the insurance market, has vowed to support the use of speed awareness courses instead of penalty points. A spokesperson says they support this because they teach motorists to drive safer, making them more attractive to insurers, who want lower risk drivers.