Speed awareness courses could ‘invalidate insurance’
New questions raised over police links to companies offering speed awareness courses, as it emerges motorists could be risking huge problems if they fail to tell insurers about courses
Police are conning motorists over speed awareness courses by failing to make clear how drivers could inadvertently leave themselves uninsured by taking part, campaigners have said.
Insurers have admitted they treat speed awareness courses the same as penalty points and it is now feared that failing to declare taking part in course could invalidate your policy.
The warning comes as The Telegraph exposes for the first time the full extent of the links between the national organisation for chief police officers and several companies which make huge profits from safety awareness courses.
The courses, which cost between £80 and £150, allow drivers to avoid penalty points on their licences.
Campaigners said this lulls many motorists into a false sense of security that they do not have to declare the course to insurers, in the hope their premiums will not rocket for a speeding-related offence.
However, insurers usually operate a “catch all” clause in their policies about keeping them informed about factors which may affect your driving, and failing to declare a course could lead them to cancel cover in the event of an accident, experts said.
Ian Belchamber, a campaigner who runs an anti-speed camera campaign in Dorset, said: “The police’s actions are potentially resulting in people driving uninsured because they haven’t told motorists to tell their insurers about the speed awareness course.
“I would make sure your insurer knows you’ve been on a course regardless of whether they specifically ask for that information.
“If you are involved in an accident and the insurer looks into your history and sees you’ve been on a speeding course they could say ‘You didn’t tell us about this, you’re not covered’.”
He added: “The police don’t want people to know this because they make a lot of money out of the courses.”
The Telegraph can confirm that two companies set up with close links to the now-defunct Association of Chief Police Officers are now entwined with the organisation’s successor, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).
An NPCC spokesman said Suzette Davenport, the chief constable of Gloucestershire Police, sits on the board of the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS), which registered a £44 million turnover last year for providing safety awareness courses.
A director of NDORS is Meredydd Hughes, the former chief constable of South Yorkshire, who was responsible for road policing at Acpo until he was caught speeding at 90mph in a 60mph zone in 2007, and stepped down from the role.
He is also a director of another company in the sector, Road Safety Support.
Idris Francis, another campaigner against speed cameras, said: “The whole system is incestuous because it’s jobs for police officers and retired police officers.”
Tim Ryan, deputy chairman of the British Insurance Brokers’ Association, has confirmed insurers are “perfectly entitled” to hike the premiums of drivers who have attended a course.
“Insurers rightly increase premiums for people attending speed-awareness courses,” he said earlier this year.
“They have still broken the law on the road but are just taking their medicine differently.
“Drivers might avoid penalty points on their licence but car premiums could still leap significantly, which insurers are perfectly entitled to do.”
Ms Davenport, the NPCC’s spokeswoman on roads policing, said: “Driver retraining courses have been well received by motorists and contribute to reducing deaths and casualties on our roads.
“Police forces do not make money from the courses.
“The scheme’s financial model is designed to provide police forces with cost recovery only.
“The costs of enforcement and administrating course attendance, including collecting evidence, serving forms and fixed penalties with the offer of a course, organising courses, monitoring attendance and finalising the evidence on successful attendance, are an average £35 per person.
“Each offender attending a course returns £35 to the force initiating their offer.”