A record number of drivers are being allowed to take retraining courses to avoid prosecution for road offences.
Figures from the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme seen by the PA news agency show 1.5 million people completed a course in 2021 as an alternative to a fine and possible penalty points.
That is up from 1.3 million during the previous year and represents the highest annual total in records dating back to 2014.
Some 86% of last year’s attendees went on speed awareness courses, which aim to help people identify speed limits and recognise the potential consequences of driving too fast.
Department for Transport figures show speed was a contributory factor in a quarter of fatal crashes on Britain’s roads in 2020.
The other most taken retraining courses include those which focus on motorway driving, wearing a seat belt and the causes of risky and inconsiderate driving.
Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: “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.”
Courses are run by private companies and are offered to drivers at the discretion of police forces across the UK.
Drivers cannot complete more than one course within three years.
Virtual speed awareness courses cost between £73 and £95, and last two hours and 45 minutes.
Most courses are being held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.