'My speed awareness course – and the shocking facts and figures'

A general view of a 20mph speed limit sign. Wide-ranging proposals to dramatically cut the number of

More areas now have a 20mph speed limit - Credit: PA

Camera on, sound on, no distractions or texting allowed, one short "comfort" break, and an intense morning on Zoom for three hours with seven equally focussed strangers. 

It was this or a fine and points on my license – a choice which, like the seven other attendees of speed school, I found easy to make.   

The speeding school I chose happened to be in Essex as it had a convenient time slot. The seven other students, also from locations randomly dotted around the country, therefore knew nothing about the road between Hampstead and the Spaniards or that it is well known locally for having cameras strategically placed to catch unsuspecting motorists. 

Well known maybe to some, but not to me. Like the other attendees, I had been only marginally above the local speed limit, in my case, 26mph in the 20mph zone and like the other speeders, I felt cheated, hard done by and actually rather embarrassed to be caught.    

Laura Marks OBE

Laura Marks had to go to speed school - Credit: Laura Marks

Almost all my local driving is in a 20 mph zone, whether to Camden, Highgate, South End Green or, like that fateful day, up to Kenwood for a morning walk with my dogs. Whilst speed bumps, temporary signals and badly parked cars make speeding almost impossible, I had managed and been caught.  

Reluctantly focussing on the teacher – a warm, engaging and very witty ex-driving instructor – I started to learn. We were shown videos of stopping distances at specific driving speeds, a massive range of street signs, and graphics with shocking facts and figures around the dangers of speeding. 

We were given tips on how to drive slower (second gear) and time to reflect on the consequences of speeding on unsuspecting pedestrians and their families. We learned about the dangers of rural roads with seemingly unjustifiably high speed limits, and the importance of inner London’s vast 20mph zone. 

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At the end of three hours, incredulous that it had gone so fast, I reflected on what I had learned. I can’t say that the 20mph zone is no longer infuriating but I can give a multitude of reasons why it matters and the importance of watching my speed.

We were asked at the end, for tips on how we might avoid speeding again. Whilst setting out earlier it might not be realistic for me personally, I might just have to accept the inevitability of being late.   

Laura Marks OBE is founder of Mitzvah Day, chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and an interfaith consultant – commongood.uk.com