Darker nights and poorer weather prompt safety warning for Aberdeenshire motorists

Darker evenings heralded by the clocks going back later this month have prompted calls for motorists to be aware of increased risk on routes in Aberdeenshire such as the A947.

Engineers working on a 20-year improvement strategy for the Aberdeen to Banff route have been analysing accident statistics and driver opinion to identify trends which could help increase safety.

Before even taking poorer visibility and increased risk of frost ice and other hazards at this time of year into account, speed remains one of the main factors in injury accidents on the A947.

Statistics show 18% can be attributed to vehicles driving too fast for the conditions, and in 20% of accidents taking a careless risk is one of the main factors.

A third (33%) happen when it is snowing or raining, and 38% when it’s dark, highlighting the part weather and lower light levels play.

More accidents leading to injury happen between 5-6pm on the route than at any other time, with the main causes shown to be excess speed, careless risk taking and aggressive driving.

Three quarters of accidents which led to injury on the route involved people living in the local area, people who may think they know the road and all of its risks.

And contrary to popular belief, those at greatest risk are not new drivers, but those in the 25-34 age bracket, who may think their experience or vehicle will keep them out of trouble.

Councillor John Cox (Banff and District), chair of the A947 Route Improvement Strategy Working Group, urged those using the road to think about the potential consequences as we move towards darker nights and colder weather.

“Driving at a speed that is legal and appropriate to the driving conditions should only add a few minutes to your journey and may mean the difference between you getting to your destination at all, or making it a few minutes later than hoped,” he said. 

“We know from speaking to drivers along the route that they witness excessive speed, dangerous overtaking and people taking careless risks – we would really like people to be more cautious and ensure they, and others, make their journey in one piece

“Just because you know the road doesn’t mean it stays the same all the time – you never know what’s around the next bend, or how other motorists are going to behave.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s Head of Transportation, Ewan Wallace, said: “Given the impact conditions such as light or winter weather can have, motorists should also ensure they and their vehicles are fully prepared for these challenges.

“Some motorists have to ask themselves, is it really worth travelling in excess of the speed limit to shave just a few minutes off a journey, risking points, a fine, your own life or the safety of others?

“Our engineers will be working in the longer term on a wide range of interventions to help improve safety on the A947, but we have to challenge the often held perception that accidents are caused by roads – very often it is driver behavior or error which emerges as the cause during investigations.”

An A947 Route Improvement Strategy was agreed by Aberdeenshire Council in 2016 to provide a long term plan for improving the A947 over the next 20 years.

The ultimate goal is "to develop a route which is fit for purpose of connecting the communities along the route in a safe, effective and sustainable manner, while fully supporting the regeneration activity in north Aberdeenshire".

Surveys of A947 users reveal 78% have seen vehicles travelling at excessive speeds, 73% experienced frustration due to slow moving traffic and risky overtaking has been witnessed by 77%.