Road safety expert group to look at reducing Scottish toll

An expert group that will advise the government on road safety issues was announced yesterday by Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson.

The new group will work on formulating a ten-year strategy for the reduction of the number of accidents on Scottish roads. Clearly there is a need for action.

In 2005 Scotland's roads were the safest they had been for more than half a century. Total deaths, at 286, were the lowest since 1952 and casualties too were also the lowest since 1952. Scotland's road deaths were also the fifth lowest in a group of countries that included England, Wales, most of Europe and the USA.

Clearly something is going wrong. Far from continuing their downward trend, road deaths in 2006 increased by 10%. This despite the constant messages about speeding and the blitz on enforcing speed limits.

Many commentators believe that this fixation with speed limits has been to the detriment of 'old fashioned' policing - watching for careless, reckless and dangerous driving.

If they must seek thrills while driving, young drivers should be encouraged to do
so in the demanding, but controlled conditions of authorised motor sport

Recent figures from the Department of Transport reveal that - across the UK - exceeding the speed limit was a cause in only 5% of accidents. Hopefully this new expert group can look at the problem anew and focus on what causes the remaining 95% of accidents.

A start point has to be to see what can be done to encourage drivers to do the most basic thing when driving. A third of all accidents were caused by a failure to look properly.

Why are drivers failing to look? Are they impatient? Is visibility a problem? Are there too many distractions? Too many road signs?

All these things need to be considered.

I also have a concern that the culture of movies and computer games that feature lurid crashes, from which you emerge unscathed (and indeed some games where you are rewarded for crashes) could be carrying a subconscious message that reckless and dangerous driving is laudable and without harm.

Clearly there is a lot for the expert group to consider. As Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson pointed out, too many lives are being “needlessly” lost on Scotland’s roads, with young drivers in particular taking unnecessary risks and putting lives in danger. "We need to think carefully about what more we can all do to stop the tragedies we are seeing week in, week out," he said.

That is something on which we can surely all agree.

  • Frustration is one of the triggers, directly or indirectly, for accidents. For me one situation that really has me fighting the "red mist" is the number of drivers in this area who are apparently unaware of one of the most basic rules on our roads - "KEEP LEFT". You see people every morning and evening driving mile after mile in the overtaking lane (particularly on the Westhill dual carriageway). That is the exact sort of pig-headed, inconsiderate driving that police should tackle. I remember hearing that drivers blocking following traffic in such situations could be charged with obstruction.
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