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A Magazine for Sheffield

Speed Awareness: Three points

Speed cameras are rubbish, aren't they? Standing there, all proud and motionless, the smug yellow bastards. Press your right foot down a smidgen too hard and there they are, leering at your registration plate with their beady lens, clicking away like a mechanical paparazzo. They first became my nemesis last year, when I had the audacity to drive through a set of traffic lights as they were changing from their indifferent amber hue to an angrier red one. The cameras recorded this heinous act, of course, and Her Majesty's Government dutifully snatched my licence from me, scribbled 'THREE POINTS' on it and thrust it back into my dejected lap. Not being one who learns his lesson terribly well, I broke the law again last month by doing 36mph in a 30 zone. I know what you're thinking. What a speed demon! That's what you're thinking. And you're right. I am a speed demon. They might as well just slap a straitjacket on me and leave me in a perspex cell jabbering at my own reflection. The Traffic Nazis - I believe that is the name of the official government department responsible for such matters - sent me a letter telling me what a naughty boy I'd been and giving me two choices: be awarded three more delicious points or attend a speed awareness course. I felt I'd accumulated enough points already, thank you very much, so I opted for the latter. With hindsight, this was a fucking mistake. Speed awareness courses are run by an independent company called TTC in partnership with various local authorities, our own humble South Yorkshire Police being one of them. The courses cost £70 to attend (as opposed to a £65 fine and three of those juicy licence points if you decline) and last about three hours. Each of these three hours is a savagely tedious ordeal, akin to watching paint dry or being forced to listen to an entire Olly Murs album. Presiding over my course was a nice man called Carl, an appropriate moniker given his uncanny resemblance to his namesake from the Pixar film Up. Carl spent three hours spewing out statistics about crashes, overusing the phrase 'ladies and gentlemen' as though he had a particularly polite form of Tourette's, and preaching that driving slower saves money as well as lives by using less petrol. None of this made me want to drive any slower. Much more interesting to me was the way the course had brought together a uniquely diverse cross-section of society. Seated next to me was a bloke who smelled of Richmond Superkings and anger. Opposite was Bert (not the homosexual Sesame Street puppet partner of Ernie, disappointingly), who pissed everybody off with his constant questions and anodyne stuttering hum of a voice. To my left was Posh Pam who, despite her obvious delusions of dignity, struck me as someone with no more elegance than Anne Widdecombe being dragged around a dance floor like a Dyson vacuum. For the final part of the course we were asked to look at some pictures of road scenes and determine what potential risks to us, the driver, were apparent. On being presented with this task, my first thought was; I've done this already. When I passed my theory test I proved how good I was at looking at pictures. I even have a little pink plastic card in my pocket that confirms this fact. Why is this little man who looks like a cartoon character asking me to repeat the process? As I began to ponder the repetitive cyclic nature of life itself and my brain felt as if it would bubble out of my cranium with boredom, Carl said the course was finished and we could go home. Freedom! Liberty! Viva la revolution! I got in my car and sped away as fast as my wheels would take me. The moral of the story is this; if you ever run a red light, or speed in a built-up area, or kill a traffic cop in a drive-by shooting, and you are offered the opportunity of taking a TTC speed awareness course instead of getting points on your licence - don't do it. Nothing - NOTHING - is worth the mind-numbing inanity and pointless slobbering drivel you will be subjected to. Do yourself a favour - just take the points. )

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