Making drivers safer for the future

Paul Watson -  Road Safety Team Leader at Hartlepool Borough Council.

Paul Watson - Road Safety Team Leader at Hartlepool Borough Council.

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SPEED awareness courses aim to improve driver safety for the future rather than punish motorists for their past.

Hartlepool Borough Council road safety team leader Paul Watson said: “There were 2,222 people who died on the nation’s roads last year.

“Think of the impact on all the friends and family that those people knew.

“These courses are all about improving community and road safety and changing attitudes and behaviour towards driving.”

The council has run speed awareness courses across the Cleveland Police area for the last three years as a member of the Cleveland Camera Partnership.

Latest figures for the 2009-11 period show that the number of road accident injuries in Hartlepool has dropped by nearly 13 per cent from 216 to 188.

Sessions are currently held in town at the Belle Vue Centre before moving to the improved Grayfields sports complex later this year.

Mr Watson said: “The courses are non-judgemental. You do not want to be lectured at for four hours.

“What we try to do is make sure you that you have a lot more awareness than you had when you went in.”

Take-up for those eligible for the course is now approaching 70 per cent locally.

Mr Watson added: “I know someone who received points and they estimate that it has cost them an extra £800 over four years in insurance.

“So one of the advantages of the course is that you are improving your driving without picking up the points which will send your insurance up.”

As revealed in yesterday’s Mail, the council is also to begin hosting mini-speed awareness courses for inexperienced drivers between the ages of 17-25.

Mr Watson believes Hartlepool will be the first local authority nationwide to offer such a scheme.

The idea follows comments made by parents completing the speed awareness course in town and will be provided for free out of existing course revenue.

Fees are also used to improve road safety and provide existing education and training courses across the force area.

Mr Watson said: “Personally I would like to see a situation where all motorists took some sort of refresher every three to four years.

“There have been 250 new road signs added in the last 20 years.

“How many do you understand and how many people remember when they last looked at the Highway Code?”