THE new rural roads campaign launched by the Scottish Government is the first to go beyond just raising awareness of a key road safety issue – it actually offers practical ways to avoid getting killed or injured in the first place.
Reading the road builds the skills of anticipation and awareness that will help prevent the most common causes of fatalities on Scotland’s roads.
I should know, as they underpin the very concept of advanced driving. Failure to negotiate bends, side-on crashes at junctions and head-on crashes all provoke the least survivable accidents, which even the most modern car can’t protect you from.
At the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), we have never been convinced there are such things as “killer roads”, but there is no doubt people have been dying regularly on certain stretches of rural roads in Scotland for years.
Roads like the A9, the A99 near Wick, or the A811 from Drymen to Stirling regularly top risk tables.
What they have in common is their ability to punish the simplest driving error with death or serious injury. Simple road engineering measures, such as fences, barriers and warning signs, will all help, but the most common factor is an action, either inadvertent or deliberate, by a driver not giving the road their full attention.
As the new TV adverts show, there are always little clues out there to indicate the safest speed, the likeliest source of a hazard or the best places to overtake. Ignoring these clues and ploughing on regardless places drivers in situations they can no longer control.
Scotland has the highest length of rural roads per head of population in the UK and many are relatively quiet to drive on. But they can bite back if they are not respected.
For new drivers gaining the right experience on how to deal with single carriageway roads in all weathers, at night, and with or without passengers is the key to survival in those high-risk first 12 months of driving.
• Neil Greig is director of policy and research for the Institute of Advanced Motorists.