More than 57,000 motorists caught breaking the limit on South Yorkshire’s roads have opted to enrol on a speed awareness course instead of having penalty points added onto their licences, The Star can reveal.
When the course was first introduced in 2007, some 977 motorists completed it to protect their driving licences - and the figure has increased every year since, with 26,970 taking part in the first 11 months of last year.
A total of 57,408 motorists paid £85 to do the course between 2007 and December last year - generating £4.8 million.
The cash raised through course fees is split in the main between the private firm running it and South Yorkshire Police to pay for operating speed cameras and carrying out road safety initiatives.
Because the course provider is a non-profit-making organisation, any cash left over at the end of each financial year, once running costs are taken out, goes to the county’s roads safety partnership for more safety schemes.
Figures obtained by The Star reveal that between 2008 and 2010 there were 169,911 motorists caught speeding across the county, generating £407,982 in fixed penalty notices, although a total of 920 fines remain unpaid.
The figures also show that the top speed recorded by South Yorkshire’s speed cameras since 2007 was 96mph in a 50mph zone on the A638 Great North Road, Doncaster.
Another motorist was clocked at 95mph in a 40mph zone on the A638 York Road, Doncaster and another at 93mph in a 40mph zone on the A630 Doncaster Road, Hooton Roberts, Rotherham.
The highest speed recorded by a camera in Sheffield was 92mph in a 40mph zone on the A61 Halifax Road, Grenoside.
Chief Inspector Stuart Walne, head of roads policing in South Yorkshire, said: “Speeding costs lives - we have countless evidence that shows that when you exceed the speed limit or a safe speed for the conditions you are at greater risk of harming yourself, the public and other motorists or passengers. Limits are there for a reason so it is importance that we enforce them.”
He denied that speed cameras were money-making devices.
“Speed cameras are placed where there is a history of problems, where there have been collisions or issues raised by the community,” he said.
“We are open about where they are because we want people to comply with them - we want motorists to understand the risks associated with speeding.
“When you take on responsibility for a vehicle you take on responsibility for driving it safely.”
He said motorists blatantly disregarding limits do not quality for the speed awareness course, but those caught for the first time just a few miles over the limit will be given a chance to enrol to ‘reflect’ on the seriousness of their actions.
“If you give someone the chance to reflect on what they have done, the chances are most people don’t re-offend,” he said.
“Speed awareness courses are about pointing out what the risks are, why limits are there and what happens when you exceed them - speed is a primary cause of many serious collisions. The reason behind the courses is to try to stop the next accident.”
Motorist Derek Fish, of Rotherham, completed a course at Catcliffe last year, after being caught driving at 47mph in a 40mph zone in Cambridgeshire.
He said: “I can’t believe it, but I actually enjoyed the course. I was wondering what I was letting myself in for and at first wasn’t particularly happy about being there, but that attitude soon changed.
“It made me realise that I needed to re-focus on my overall driving and get rid of some of the bad habits.
“As a result of the course I’m now a COAST driver - Concentration, Observation, Awareness, Speed and Time - and all the better for it.
“One gripe, despite the fee, is that four hours is too long.”