Record numbers of motoring law-breakers are being allowed to avoid prosecution by taking “driver retraining” courses instead.
Official figures show that in 2021 1.5 million drivers completed the courses - the vast majority of which were speed awareness classes - instead of having to pay a fine and accept penalty points.
Data obtained by the PA news agency shows that is an increase of 200,000 over the previous year and the highest ever in records going back as far as 2014.
Retraining courses are offered around the UK as an alternative to prosecution for some motoring offences.
The figures from the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme show that last year 86% of motorists attended a speed awareness course, which allows offenders to avoid the three penalty points and £100 fine breaking the speed limit usually carries.
Other courses cover specific topics such as seatbelt use and motorway driving as well as classes on safe and considerate driving and laws around mobile phone use, traffic light offences and other road regulations.
Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, commented: “On the face of it, the increase in the number of people doing courses indicates that our driving habits have got worse despite the Covid-induced travel restrictions of last year.
“But there’s a message motorists need to take on board: at least 1.5 million got caught flouting the law last year so if you’re tempted to speed up, remember the next driver to be caught could well be you.”
Offenders are only offered the opportunity to take one course instead of prosecution if they haven’t attended one in the previous three years - in line with how long penalty points remain valid.
Courses, which are largely being run online due to Covid, are operated by a number of private providers and costs range from £52 to £185, with online speed awareness classes costing between £73 and £95 and lasting just under three hours.