TRAFFIC police patrolled a crash-plagued 60-mile stretch of the A9 for as few as three hours a day this year, The Scotsman has learned.
The section of the A9 between Dalwhinnie and Inverness, on which at least seven people have died in the past two years, was covered by roads policing officers for between 2.9 and 6.3 hours a day from January to July.
Highlands MSP David Stewart revealed police chiefs told him the stretch was “under represented” for patrols, and he said the number of collisions would “undoubtedly” have been cut had there been more patrols.
The stretch comprises the northern half of the Perth-Inverness part of the A9,, which is to be completely dualled to improve safety after a series of fatal crashes.
Average-speed cameras will also be installed on the A9 between Dunblane and Inverness by next summer, although the government agency Transport Scotland said there might not be cameras along the entire route.
Mr Stewart, a Labour MSP, said: “The figures show there has not been as much policing on the road as there should have been. It would undoubtedly have cut crashes.”
Among those to die on the Dalwhinnie-Inverness section this year were Abigail Houston, 42, and her seven-year-old daughter Mia, both of Edinburgh, and Mohammad Ali Hayajneh, 62, from Germany, in a two-vehicle collision near Newtonmore on 9 July.
Police Scotland said the figures, in response to a freedom of information request, did not include local officers, which it said made far fewer A9 patrols.
It also pointed out that, in July, motorcycle police drafted in from Edinburgh and Glasgow significantly increased patrols over the whole A9, totalling an average of 33 hours a day.
Police Scotland said it was unable to provide traffic patrol figures for the Perth-Dalwhinnie section of the road because of the cost.
Motoring groups have demanded more police patrols to deter dangerous driving that does not always involve speeding, such as risky overtaking.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists called for full police patrol figures for the road to be made available so informed decisions could be made by the A9 Safety Group, which includes police and road officials.
Institute policy and research director Neil Greig said: “I’m not very impressed by the lack of data on such a high-profile route. What does the A9 group have to base any enforcement decisions on?
“Two things need to happen – firstly, let’s get some accurate and useful data to show what is happening on the A9. This can act as a baseline to show if enforcement really works.
“Secondly, I’d like to see some really good research done to link police time and numbers to speeding, careless driving and accidents on the A9.
“Police Scotland have said they are adopting a more high- profile approach because it works. I believe them, but they do need to prove it.”
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “The figures provided are not a true reflection of the total hours this stretch of road has been policed, as they only include divisional road policing officer hours and not the number of hours policed by local officers.”
Transport Scotland said discussions were continuing over the camera system’s design, which could lead to sections of the road not having coverage.