Being so upbeat about taking that Speed Awareness Course, it was a pity that I'd have to wait until 25 April to attend. But huge numbers of people get the chance to take them nowadays, and it was no surprise that I had to wait.
But now I've had a phone call from a nice girl at Kent County Council (who run the SACs for the Kent Police). She'd found some places for me at The Salomons Conference Centre at Tunbridge Wells, if I wanted to switch from Maidstone. The Salomons courses were on 20 March, 27 March, and 10 April. Unfortunately the first two clashed with my upcoming (and booked) West Country caravan holiday, but I went for the 10 April offer. It is at 10am, but Tunbridge Wells is only 40 minutes' drive away from me, via a favourite leafy route through Ashdown Forest, and The Salomons is slightly out of town, on 'my' side of TW, so I should have a clear run without encountering any of TW's notorious traffic. And 10 April is indeed sooner.
So that's fixed up, even better than before. The usual £45 fee for transferring from one course to another was waived.
Needless to say, I've discovered another issue to puzzle over. Even though I will not now be convicted of a motoring offence - at least once I have successfully completed the course - where do I stand on telling my car insurance company about it? I've found no definitive answer so far.
The Police used to say that attendance on the SAC wouldn't mean an increase in insurance premiums. But then in 2012 the Admiral group of insurance companies - that's the cheap ones in the market, possibly looking for ways to charge extra, like Ryanair do - began in 2012 to ask motorists insuring with them whether they had taken a Speed Awareness Course during the last five years. It was a straight question, and unless the motorist was prepared to lie (and possibly invalidate his/her car insurance), it would lead to a higher premium.
Admiral argued that whatever the Police did at their discretion, attendance on the SAC demonstrated that the insured had been exceeding the speed limit. The fact that they attended a course in lieu of conviction was irrelevant. They were in the same position as anyone convicted. And Admiral had their own statistical evidence showing that people with speeding convictions had more frequent accidents - hence the higher risk assessment, and the premium loading.
And yet it seemed common sense that (a) speeding was general, almost all motorists exceeding the limit now and then, deliberately or not; (b) most people were not arrogant and habitual speed merchants; (c) anyone allowed to attend an SAC, and willing to do so, must be receptive to re-education, with a lasting improvement in their driving as the likely result - thus actually reducing their risk of having an accident; (d) the genuinely bad drivers were those who had driven too fast to be offered the SAC, or who had scorned the offer, and had instead opted for the fine and three points on their licence - they were the ones most likely to be repeat offenders, and to merit a higher insurance premium; and (e) extra insurance costs will discourage people from opting for remedial education at an SAC, leaving them as risky as before, which is against the long-term thrust of Road Safety initiatives.
The problem was that nobody had been able to gather together any statistics to prove that SACs were effective in reducing driver risk.
The result: each insurance company has been taking their own view on their own experience, some doing what Admiral has done, and some saying they won't charge extra - possibly as a commercial ploy to attract business from disgruntled drivers who feel that their SAC has made them safer on the road, but the fact isn't being recognised.
One of the best recent overviews of the current situation that I have so far found is at The Actuarial Post at http://www.actuarialpost.co.uk/article/speed-awareness-courses-and-insurance-premiums-3919.htm, and the Chartered Insurance Institute's report they refer to is at http://www.cii.co.uk/media/4048082/cii_new_generation_uw_group_-_speed_awareness_courses_-_the_implications_for_insurance.pdf. Interesting reading. I think the Institute is mostly against Admiral's thinking, but would in any event like to see the proper evidence gathered, so that not only could insurance companies uniformly assess the real risks involved, but the public would know exactly what they should be doing. The Institute has proposed a detailed study plan, but so far, it seems, progress has been stymied by lack of insurance industry backing and perhaps lack of access to the appropriate data.
So far as I can see, the best advice at this time is this: If the insurance company asks a direct question about attending a Speed Awareness Course, they must be given a truthful answer, regardless of any financial consequences. Otherwise, there is no present requirement to volunteer the information, because the SAC is not a conviction, and therefore attendance at one is not a material fact that the insurance company need to be told about.
I will however ask at my own SAC on 10 April, and find out what the instructors are prepared to advise.
I expect to get the usual invitation to renew my car insurance around 1 May, and the new policy will come into force from 24 May. So there is plenty of time to consider the proper way forward. I'm rather hoping that my insurance company will relieve me of doubt by drawing attention to its attitude on Speed Awareness Courses.
If it doesn't, then, knowing me, I will probably play for safety and phone them when I get the renewal invitation. Even if I shoot myself in the foot, so to speak. I would never want to lie or conceal material facts where insurance is concerned. I can't risk not being fully covered.