Speeding motorists to get safety lessons

Thousands of speeding motorists are to be offered road safety lessons instead of fines and points on their licence, Norfolk police chiefs revealed last night.

Thousands of speeding motorists are to be offered road safety lessons instead of fines and points on their licence, Norfolk police chiefs revealed last night.

The initiative will be introduced across the county in coming months and is part of a new road policing strategy which includes tougher measures to combat road rage incidents.

Eligible drivers - mainly those travelling just above the speed limit - will be able to attend a three-hour course rather than paying a £60 fine and having three points added to their licence. Road safety groups endorsed the scheme which has already been trialled in other parts of the country.

Chief Constable Carol Howlett said: "We believe prevention can be more important than punishment. The aim of these courses is to highlight the consequences of speeding and dangerous driving which will make people think twice in future."

Last year, 60 people died on Norfolk's roads and 3,500 were injured. This is a reduction of previous years, but Mrs Howlett admitted further progress was needed.

Chief Insp Mick Kirkham said: "Traditional punishments such as fixed penalty notices and action through the courts will still be used where appropriate - such as when people are driving at well above the speed limit.

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"But for other cases these courses will be offered as an option. We will not make the threshold public but the option will be used when people are marginally above the limit and where there is a hope of them changing their behaviour.

"Those travelling at particularly high speeds and persistent offenders will still be open to the normal channels of prosecution."

The scheme was first introduced in Thames Valley where more than 90pc of motorists who were offered the course chose to take it. Drivers must foot the bill for the courses with prices starting at about £70.

The strategy also includes a clampdown on "anti-social driving", including tailgating, motorists making obscene gestures and undertaking. High visibility patrols will adopt a zero-tolerance approach to such behaviour, with punishments ranging from on-the-spot fines to criminal prosecutions.

"Anti-social behaviour on the roads is every bit as serious as it is in our communities," said Mrs Howlett.

"A large part of this campaign will be through education, but ultimately we will take enforcement action.

"We have also seen vehicles deliberately travelling too close to the car in front in an attempt to harass the driver - this kind of conduct is extremely dangerous."

Officers will also increase their use of CCTV and automatic number plate recognition which allows them instant access to data on a particular vehicle, including involvement in criminal activities.

Efforts to cut down on drivers under the influence of drink and drugs or using their mobile phone will also be stepped up.

Mr Kirkham said: "Our experience shows that criminals have little regard for the rules of the road and, therefore, by clamping down on relatively minor offences, we can sometimes detect people involved in much more serious matters."

Roger Vincent, spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa), said: "We welcome more imaginative approaches to road policing. Often a fine and points acts as little deterrent to motorists, but seeing the horrific and sometimes tragic consequences of dangerous driving can change their behaviour for good.

"There can be an over-reliance on speed cameras which, although a key part of road safety, cannot detect other forms of dangerous driving.

"Forces that increase their presence on the roads, as Norfolk police are pledging to do, can help tackle this problem."