Thursday, 13 January 2011

How slowing down can reduce stress - and save you money!

I have a confession. Just before Christmas I had picked up Dom from his Dad's and with hot chips in the car from the Chippy we headed off to my parents. We wanted to be back in time for Harry Hill on TV and a sense of pride took over when Dom said he bet we wouldn't make it. We did ... but after passing the speed camera just a few yards from my parents road several weeks later my fine and 3 points came through. I had been snapped at doing 37mph in a 30 speed limit. I have been driving for 27 years and this is the first time I have been 'caught'.

I was given the option of a fine or attending a speed awareness course. I chose the latter and am so pleased I did. Myself and about 40 other people queued like naughty children at the reception of the Holiday Inn at Leeds/Garforth where I had chosen to do the course. Once in the room we read the instruction on the flip chart to fill in certain pages of our workbook. In silence we did. When we were all assembled Shirley, our tutor for the 4 hour session, told us we could speak to each other and it wasn't a test! I never did a detention at school (I was good!) but that's how it seemed.

Shirley was wonderful! She is a driving instructor and guided us through the work book over the morning. She used the name cards in front of us which made it far more friendly and there was plenty of interaction.

There were the shocking videos of pedestrians being knocked over by cars going too fast and a very moving clip of parents left devastated by the death of their daughter due to her friend speeding.

We discussed the excuses we give for speeding - often due to being late; numbers killed by speeding; how you/your life would be affected for either killing a pedestrian and/or the impact on your family; recognising speed limits; being aware of hazards and how to cope with them.

The most useful things I learnt were:

1. If there are street lights then the limit is 30 mph unless it says differently.
 Maybe I should know this but after 27 years it is a long time since I read the highway code

2. You don't have to always be in top gear! I was taught that the car engine needed you to change up asap as it was kinder on the engine. For 27 years I have been like Penelope Pitstop in an endeavour to do this! Shirley explained that cars no longer need you to do this so in a 30 zone keep in a lower gear which will help keep your speed down. Woo hoo! It works! I am now one of those people who sticks to the limit comfortably!

3. In recent weeks whilst I have had to drive Clive around post-surgery I have become very aware of my driving (ladies, don't you just love your partner in the passenger seat?). At the time it was often snowy and icy so I was much slower. He did give me tips on driving in such conditions and I am more confident about it. But since then I also found it better to 'tootle' along, especially on the motorways. I don't mean at a dangerously low speed to upset others but now I average about 60 mph. The result is that I get to my destination a few minutes later but I am calmer, have reduced my risks of injury but also notice a big difference in fuel consumption. Clive is now back in his own car (until the next knee is done in a few weeks) but he tells me he too has become a tootler and finds journeys far less stressful as a result.

I found the morning extremely useful and feel that it would do us all good to have a driving refresher every now and then. Okay so maybe I am feeling rather righteous about my driving at the moment though but the main lesson I learnt is that NONE of the reasons we give for speeding justify the death of someone else.

In future perhaps I will consider the cost of luke-warm chips against the cost of killing someone. It just isn't worth it.

Elaine Hanzak

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