THE COLDEST winter in a century has highlighted the importance staying safe while driving on country roads.
Following the coldest December since records began, the Scottish Government and Road Safety Scotland are reminding drivers throughout Angus and Grampian of the dangers of country roads.
Latest Government statistics reveal the extent of the dangers on North East roads, with a further 377 fatal and serious injuries occurring in the area in 2009, the four year total between 2005 and 2009 is 1731.
Statistics show that 90 per cent of Scottish motorists regularly drive on country roads and 57 per cent of those do so at least three times a week. In the recent bouts of bad weather road users across the area have been faced with a range of particularly challenging road conditions in recent months, which have contributed to a number of serious road traffic collisions.
Drivers are now being targeted in a campaign which is designed to illustrate how country roads present more challenges to them than they realise. It will also show how speed and complacency are closely linked to an increased risk of crashing and the severity of the resulting injuries.
Research has shown that the two most common causes of fatal country road accidents are loss of control and inappropriate speed - that is travelling too fast for the conditions or exceeding the posted speed limit.
Dr Neale Kinnear, a senior psychologist at the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), said: “Rural roads in the North East are no different from those throughout Scotland and are, by their nature, less forgiving and in wintry conditions even experienced drivers can be taken by surprise and experience a near-miss or be involved in a collision.
“Drivers are more likely to be deceived on country roads, with sections of road prone to ice even when outside temperature is showing as above freezing.
“In conditions like this drivers can perceive that their safety margin is greater than it actually is.
“Reducing speed is the primary mechanism for drivers to increase their safety margin and a reduction in speed will ultimately improve safety when driving on rural roads.
“While this is particularly important in conditions like those Scotland has experienced recently, crash rates on rural roads all year round suggest that a reduction in speed would improve safety for drivers at any time of the year.”
The campaign will run in cinemas, on the radio and online and aims to illustrate the unpredictability of country roads no matter how well drivers think they know them.
By showing four different creative endings, three of which result in a crash, the campaign illustrates the three out of four fatalities statistic.
In addition to speed and complacency a number of external elements such as animals, slow-moving traffic, other drivers and the road/weather conditions that can cause accidents.
The campaign will also include and updated interactive map at www.dontriskit.info. The website is designed to inform motorists about the facts on country roads in their area while also providing further information on country road driving, an interactive quiz and country road readiness tips.