Average speed cameras lead to ‘dramatic fall’ in A9 casualties

12.00 | 28 January 2016 | | 4 comments

Accident and casualty rates on the A9 have ‘fallen dramatically’ in the year since new average speed cameras were installed, according to latest figures.

The data, reported by Transport Scotland on 26 January, reveals that from November 2014 to October 2015, two fewer people were killed and 16 fewer seriously injured on the road between Dunblane and Inverness.

The A9 is the longest road in Scotland, and connects central Scotland and the Highlands. It stretches from Dunblane, situated north of Stirling, and travels north bypassing Perth and Inverness before finishing in Thurso.

In December 2011, the Scottish Government published its Infrastructure and Investment Plan (IIP), which sets out that the A9 between Perth and Inverness will be dualled by 2025 – a project described as “one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Scotland’s history”.

In July 2012, the A9 Safety Group was set up by Transport Scotland with the aim of positively influencing driver behaviour in a way that helps to reduce road casualty figures during the dualling period. A 2015 Road Safety Foundation report labelled the road ‘low-medium risk’.

The number of ‘fatal and serious accidents’ on the stretch of road between Dunblane and Inverness fell by almost 59% from the baseline average, with ‘fatal and serious casualties’ down by approximately 64%.

The number of ‘fatal and serious accidents’ between Perth and Inverness is down by almost 45%, with ‘fatal and serious casualties down’ by almost 58%.

There were no fatalities or serious injuries between Dunblane and Perth.

Transport Scotland says that more recent figures confirm that the downwards trend is continuing with no fatal accidents on the A9 in the second half of last year.

Derek Mackay, transport minister, said: “For the first time since parts of the A9 were upgraded in the 1970s, there were no fatal accidents anywhere on the route from July to December.  

“These improvements are taking place with rising traffic volumes and the continuing use of this nationally important route to support the economy of the Highlands and Islands.

“We are monitoring the performance of the A9 and welcome the figures which indicate that the route continues to perform far more safely than before. ‘Fatal and serious casualties’ have more than halved and there are clear and substantial reductions in fatal casualties both between Perth and Inverness and between Perth and Dunblane.”

Police Scotland has also indicated that the latest quarterly data from the average speed camera system continues to demonstrate extremely low levels of drivers being reported; with the latest figures indicating an average five drivers a day exceeding the operational threshold.

Chief superintendent Andy Edmonston from Police Scotland said: "The reduction in serious and fatal injury collisions on the A9 in the first year following installation of the safety cameras is welcome.

“However, while the number of fatalities decreased by a quarter, the case remains that six people sadly lost their lives on the road.

“It is apparent the safety cameras have contributed towards changing driver behaviour, particularly in respect of complying with speed limits.”

 Photo credit: copyright M J Richardson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


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    Is it true that the speed limit on the A9 for HGVs was increased from 40 to 50mph at around the same time that the average speed cameras were installed? If so, was this done because slow HGVs were leading to many overtaking maneuvers that sometimes went wrong?

    If raising the HGV speed limit has fixed an underlying crash risk, and this has led to the reduction in collisions on the A9, why does the A9 report not even mention the change of speed limit?

    Dave Finney, Slough
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    I agree that there is a lot the article does not say. For example, how many cameras and how deployed but I am not sure site selection is the main point. They had chosen to carry out work on the A9, I expect they used accident records over an extended time period and the measure chosen (average speed cameras) presumably involves more road length then measures that conceivable might have a more localised effect.

    Science could still be done. As I understand it the theory developed by Taylor and others in the 1990s / early 2000s after studying rural routes such as this relates to two speed related factors, 1) measures to limit speeds grossly above average and 2) measures to lower the mean speed recorded along the route.

    If before and after speed readings taken at the camera sections and accident reductions match the predictions expected by Taylor and others there could be a reasonable basis of attributing the results obtained to the measures deployed.

    Steven Cross, Leicestrshire
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    The A9 report doesn’t contain any measurement of the effect of site-selection (also known as regression to the mean), there are no trend adjustments, and no estimate of the effects of other safety work completed. The entire casualty reductions may therefore have had nothing to do with the cameras. We must conclude that the report does not present any evidence that the average speed cameras have resulted in any casualty reduction.

    Average speed cameras seem to be all the fashion at the moment with many more being installed yet we still have no evidence of any road safety benefit. We need to start using an evidence-led approach where all interventions are deployed within scientific trials. Scientific trials are simple, they are cheaper than trying to produce estimates and, most importantly, scientific trials are the most accurate test.

    Average speed cameras may well bring road safety benefits so let’s not jeopardize their future by failing to provide the proof that we ourselves would demand for any other safety product.

    Dave Finney, Slough
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    Good news that casualties have reduced after one year, due in part to a road upgrade, although less positive impact on fatals. The main poblem with the A9 has been a lack of dualling for safe overtaking of slower vehicles – a £3 billion project is in the pipeline to dual 80 miles of the A9 by 2025.

    Paul Biggs, Staffordshire
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