Something seems to be going badly wrong with road safety in the North East of Scotland. While nationally in Scotland and the UK the numbers of deaths and serious injuries is at its lowest for 50 years, we seem to be seeing a spate of accidents in Aberdeen and around the North East.
What is different here compared to the rest of the country?
- Is it the state of disrepair?
- Or is it traffic rat-running on unsuitable B-roads?
Anyone who uses rural roads in the North East would surely agree that the condition of these roads is worse than it has ever been. Huge potholes and cracks mean that you almost have to pay more attention to the tarmac than to watching for other road users and potential hazards.
But, I wonder if the biggest danger is something you don’t even see? The actual grip of the road surfaces. Sharp bend... how good is the grip on the road surface?
It’s a sobering thought that it is only four patches of rubber, not much bigger than the sole of your feet, that keeps your car in control. The amount of grip depends on the quality of your tyres and the grip of the road surface.
Not so many years ago, rural roads were resurfaced every few years. These days the tarmac we run on often looks like it has not been touched for years.
With the passage of thousands of tyres, the micro surface of the road becomes polished and smoothed to the point where the tyres have little to grip on. We all know how slippery polished granite settes become when wet. Well the chips in the road surface have become like miniature granite settes.
This theory would also explain why motorcyclists are in greater danger, with their smaller contact patches on a deteriorating road surface.
The other particular factor in the North East is the longer relative distances driven on unsuitable roads.
Because our basic road network is so poor, drivers take to unsuitable B-roads to make any headway to their destinations.
Anyone who has driven roads like the B977 to the west of Aberdeen will be familiar with the dangerous cocktail of drivers on a mission to get round the city and 40-tonne artics trying to save a few hours at the beginning or end of a trans-continental journey.
Equally, how many of us have taken B-roads, or smaller A-roads, rather than face a hundred-plus miles of the hated A96, with its dangerous mix of three lane and two lane carriageways?The end of the dual carriageway is in a few miles. Can you face another 100 miles grinding along on three and two-lane roads? Or do you take to the side roads?
The bottom line is that road users are paying something like £36 billion in tax. The North East share of that is around £300 million a year.
It’s about time some of that was spent:
- accelerating the AWPR
- dualling the A90 and A96
- and getting an urgent programme of repairs and resurfacing under way.