AVERAGE speed cameras on one of Scotland’s most notorious roads will be switched on today as part of a plan to improve safety and save lives.
Construction work on the new system for the A9 between Perth and Inverness began in May.
In addition, a higher speed limit for HGVs on the route comes into force today, with a view to reducing driver frustration caused by slow vehicles on the busy road.
The increase from 40mph to 50mph is being trialled under a pilot project.
It is hoped both measures will help reduce the accident rate on the A9, which is the main road between central Scotland and the Highlands.
It is commonly regarded as one of the country’s most dangerous roads, with fatal and serious road accidents on the single carriageway between Perth and Inverness significantly higher than the national average.
Transport minister Keith Brown said: “Our efforts to improving safety on the A9 are underpinned by our commitment to dualling the A9 by 2025.
“This is clearly evidenced by our recent announcement regarding the four short-listed bidders for the Kincraig to Dalraddy section - a project we expect to get under way next summer, some six months earlier than originally planned.
“In the meantime, the A9 Safety Group ensures that key partners such as the police, local authorities and transport & business groups are working closely to make a positive difference for A9 road users.
“The facts are clear that average speed cameras are effective in saving lives. Before and after studies of other average speed camera sites in the UK show, on average, they achieved a 61% reduction in fatal and serious accidents.
“Average speed cameras encourage drivers to improve their behaviour and we are already seeing this on the A9.
“These cameras are part of a package of measures being introduced to make the A9 safer, including substantial investment in engineering improvements, such as improved lighting and signing, as well as education campaigns.
“The average speed cameras will allow Police Scotland to target instances of dangerous driving more effectively but all A9 users have a responsibility to drive to the conditions and relevant speed limits during the course of their journeys.
“Together with the 50mph HGV speed limit trial, we are introducing a level playing field for businesses who should benefit from less disruption and more reliable journey times due to a reduction in disruption caused by accidents.”
Chief Superintendent Iain Murray, of Police Scotland, said: “Police Scotland supports the introduction of average speed cameras on the A9.
“We are committed to keeping people safe on our roads and are supportive of any measure which is shown to impact positively towards the reduction of road collisions.
“However, road safety is not just about speeding, it’s about road user behaviour and how individual road users engage with each other on the road.
“Police Scotland will retain a high-visibility presence on the A9, as with all our roads across Scotland, to make sure that drivers are driving responsibly and within the law.
“We will continue to challenge risk-taking on the roads and our officers will educate, advise, provide guidance and enforce legislation when necessary.”
Work on the new camera system saw columns, cameras and infra-red lighting masts erected on the single carriageway sections.
Earlier this year, figures suggested that the presence of the newly-installed cameras was already cutting drivers’ speed - even though they had not been switched on.
Environmental group WWF Scotland has called for average speed camera schemes to be introduced on more of the country’s roads and motorways “to help save lives and cut pollution”.
Climate and energy policy officer Gina Hanrahan said: “Alongside the clear safety benefits, enforcing speed limits on trunk roads using average speed cameras and other tools is an effective and cost-effective way to reduce climate emissions as well as fuel costs for motorists.
“To reduce health-threatening levels of air pollution and meet our climate targets, the use of average speed cameras and other approaches to help reduce excessive speeds should be seriously considered on other major roads across Scotland.”
The installation of the cameras comes as the Scottish Government moves forward with its plan to make the route a dual carriageway.
The £3 billion project involves the upgrade of 80 miles of single carriageway along the A9 between Perth and Inverness by 2025.