Road safety campaign welcomed by crash victim’s family

The families of two teenage car crash victim have welcomed an initiative aimed at improving driving in the isles.

Starting tomorrow, SIC and Police Scotland will launch a month-long driver training campaign to tackle the issues of overtaking, speeding and dangerous driving.

Concerns about all those issues were raised at the last Road Safety Advisory Panel meeting.

The campaign, in which police will be doing spot checks on roads between Sumburgh and Sella Ness, has been warmly welcomed by the families of two young men Stuart Henderson and Marcus MacPherson, who died in a car crash on their way to work in 2007.

Stuart Henderson
Stuart Henderson

Stuart’s mother Elizabeth said that the fatal crash was caused by speeding, and anything to raise awareness of this should be endorsed. Mrs Henderson, speaking on behalf of her husband Paul, Stuart’s fiancée Crystal, and siblings Jamie and Jemma said: “We go a couple of times a year to place flowers at the site of the crash. We are at the side of the road and the traffic speeds past, you’d think they’d show more respect.

“After the accident my daughter said she’d like to go into schools with three photos, one of Stuart, one of his headstone and one of the car after the accident. Stuart’s death was caused by speed, nothing else.”

The MacPherson family also support the campaign and added that wintry conditions contributed to the crash.

During September drivers from a number of companies including large employers the SIC, Total and Petrofac will be given a short training course where they will take part in demonstrations of the “seatbelt convincer” and reaction testers. The seatbelt convincer is a car seat in which a person sits, mounted on a 23-ft trailer on an incline. The seat travels down the trailer at around 7mph, and the person gets a jolt when it stops. SIC road safety officer Elaine Skinley said: “It just makes you think what would happen if you were going at 30 or 60 mph.”

The reaction tester will test the user’s reaction times and highlight the need for driving without distractions, which slow down reaction times considerably. The device contrasts a person’s speed of reaction when concentrating, and the speed when taking a CD out of its case and putting it back. Ms Skinley said results show people cannot concentrate if they are distracted, and this would be the same if eating or drinking at the wheel, activities which are not illegal.

Other measures will also take place. Ms Skinley said: “We’re planning a range of measures over the month to flag up how important it is to drive carefully. As well as visits to businesses, there will be public information messages on the ferries’ electronic message boards and free resources available at the police station, SIC North Ness building and Shetland Library.

“We’re encouraging companies interested in requesting a session for their drivers at a later date to get in touch. Details on how to register interest will be included in the information packs currently being distributed to various organisations throughout Shetland.”

The death of Stuart Henderson inspired the theatre project <i>Ignition</i> recently. Shetland Arts’ John Haswell, who was involved in it, said: “I’m delighted this initiative is taking place, anything to get the message across that safer driving saves lives is to be applauded. We need to explore every avenue we possibly can to educate people to drive safely. There are so many tragic incidents [in Shetland], the quieter roads lead people into a false sense of security and lead people to take risks without thinking of the consequences.”

SIC convener Malcolm Bell said: “Everyone who uses our roads has a responsibility to drive in a manner which minimises risk to other users. As a police officer the hardest job I ever had was breaking bad news to the family of an accident victim. The campaign will help make Shetland’s roads safer which will benefit us all.”


Add Your Comment
  • Paul barnett

    • August 28th, 2013 21:57

    Possibly they should also look at the 45 -50 mph drivers that cause frustration and the need to overtake to just to do the speed limit.. My take on the situation is if you do not feel confident or capable to do the speed limit then get off the road and seek training until you are. If you just go slow to annoy then you should get done as well as speeders.

  • John Tulloch

    • August 29th, 2013 8:46

    This is a very good idea. By focusing on encouraging drivers to improve their driving skills rather than scolding them like children the drivers gain confidence and self-respect instead of being pariahs and it will bring much better results.

    I attended a course run by the Lerwick police about thirty years ago which was excellent and I’ve never been able to understand why there isn’t more of that type of thing. Avoiding a single bad accident would pay for the cost of the training many times over, the problem is, whose budget is it going to come from?

    Does the Institute of Advanced Motorists still not function in Shetland, if not, perhaps they could be encouraged to start up?

    There will soon be plenty of empty SIC offices they could use as an HQ.

  • Anna Smith

    • August 29th, 2013 8:46

    It would be beneficial to roll this program out in high school. It will educate those about to gain a provisional licence and children who ride in cars of newly passed young drivers.

  • Jane Leask - Clousta

    • August 29th, 2013 9:08

    I am one of those drivers that cause you frustration. I have no intention of getting off the road. If it annoys you to get somewhere a couple of minutes later maybe you need to leave for your destination that couple of minutes earlier. I intend to drive at what I consider a safe speed rather than a maximum of the speed limit, if that is the speed limit that is fine. Based on the number of drivers who overtake me when I am doing the speed limit then the problem is still speed.

    Did you not read the above article that speed was the reason for this young man’s death?

  • Ryan Calder

    • August 29th, 2013 9:25

    Why are you worried about 10mph below the speed limit? I hardly think that is going to inconvenience you very much.

  • Ryan Bazeley

    • August 29th, 2013 10:23

    I have to agree with Paul here. People who drive at 50mph everywhere encourage overtaking, which in turn can be dangerous. Some of the responsibility for that falls on the person “toodling” along at 50mph.

    Yes, the cause of that accident was speed but there is also a difference between travelling at the speed limit and “excessive” speed. The highway code does say to keep up the flow of traffic…

  • John Tulloch

    • August 29th, 2013 10:26

    I see the usual crop of self-appointed speed controllers is starting to “show”.

    We need to remember that drivers have differing abilities and thus perceptions of what is acceptable speed. Speed limits are there, sure not as “targets”, but to limit what is generally considered excessive speed. In my opinion these are often inconsistent or inappropriate to the point of being silly in either direction, too fast or too slow however we have them.

    When we are going about our daily business we tend to have a different view about our speed of progress than when we are, say, on holiday. If you want to look at the scenery as some people do (Shock! Horror!) people tend to slow down to stay safe whereas if you are under pressure due to your business you tend to speed up and concentrate. Both are legitimate modes of travel and each should respect the other’s position and show some consideration which itself leads to a better spirit on the roads.

    I can’t help becoming frustrated by people obtusely and selfishly “diddlin alang” if I have pressing business which is why when I’m on holiday or just “out for a spin” I pull in regularly to allow other people to pass safely – no overtaking needed on busy roads!

    Many people can’t bring themselves to do that, they seem to take a perverse delight in holding up better drivers who have more to do.

  • Ian Halcrow

    • August 29th, 2013 10:56

    You may not know it Paul and Ryan, but the 60mph applies only to cars and light vans. For larger vans and buses it is 50mph, and for lorries 40mph. So perhaps some of the vehicles that frustrate you are indeed just sticking to the speed limit. And 60mph is a MAXIMUM speed limit, not a target. It is the responsibility of every driver to limit their speed to what they consider safe in the circumstances. So set the alarm clock five minutes earlier and accept it when behind someone not quite at the speed limit.

    Speaking of circumstances, it won’t be long before we can expect frosty mornings or evenings. Snow won’t be that much later. Now is the time to check your tyres and consider “all season” or “winter” tyres if you don’t already have them. My experience of using winter tyres is that, with a reasonable tread depth, they give significantly improved grip over standard tyres in difficult conditions. So get your tyres soon; after the first day of snow there will be queues at the garages, and winter tyres will be quickly sold out.

  • Sandy McDonald

    • August 29th, 2013 11:00

    I am afraid I have to agree with Jane Leask. Although I tend to stick pretty close to the speed limit I find it hard to fathom why other road users insist on overtaking only to continue on at 60mph just in front of me. I think it is some kind psychosis whereby certain “personalities” cannot abide to be behind another vehicle.

    Jane is right when she says leave plenty of time for your journey, I think that is advice that the police regularly give during road safety campaigns.

    Every trip into town I make frequent use of the phrase “what it is you rush”. I can almost understand the teenage desire to push limits, however dangerous and tragic the consequences may be, I was a young driver myself once… However I must say that the number of times I have seen appealing driving from older supposedly more experienced drivers leaves me wondering how they ever made it this far without killing themselves. It’s not just men either I must say!

    I won’t even start on the way Cyclists are treated by many road users!

  • Johan Adamson

    • August 29th, 2013 11:33

    I agree with John, let people past. The bus driver who got so frustrated when someone would not let him past, he overtook dangerously, showed that there is a modicum of road rage on both sides which was terrible and must be stopped. Let people overtake you by not driving right up to the next person. Understand tho that this is Shetland and not a race track, there are all sorts of other road users and houses at the sides of the road. The current ad on TV with the bairns shows how bad the frustration sounds to bairns. Pretend they are in the car or your worst driving critic (although the advert is not so good because my bairns can now recite it from end to end, and all the bad driving quotes within it).

  • Ina Henry

    • August 29th, 2013 12:07

    Yes this might be a good idea but on Sunday afternoon my husband and I went into Lerwick and on the way we met a lot of cars with no lights on some with just
    one blub on and with the thick mist that was in places they could not be seen to us that and driving to fast and over taking in the most stupid places,speed limits are there for a reason

  • John Tulloch

    • August 29th, 2013 12:47

    Good points, Johan.

    I think “road rage” is only one of the many “rages” we seem to experience in modern life which I believe stem, largely, from psychological ill-preparedness for our ever-changing lifestyles and manifest themselves via through frustration at the complexity of rules and regulations hoops through which we have to pass these days.

    Throw in some finger-wagging, tut-tutting and inconsiderate attitudes and it’s not long before the most reasonably minded people begin to think the world and all its elements are stacked against their ambitions of making it as “not failing”.

    People and systems continually getting in the way of peoples honest desire to do right contribute handsomely to triggering these rages.

    A benevolent, considerate attitude to other road users will defuse much “road rage” before it explodes, possibly, on someone else farther down the road.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • August 29th, 2013 13:48

    Paul Barnett and Ryan Bazeley, should be the first two on the short training course. 60 mph is the maximum speed limit on Shetlands roads not the minimum. It is not against the law to travel below 60 only to travel above 60.

    Ryan overtaking is no more dangerous than than any other maneuver on the road if done safely and within your own driving capabilities and the road and weather conditions at the time.

    Far bigger clowns on the road are those who sit behind someone doing 50 and they tailgate each other. I have seen queues up to 16 cars long and every car sitting no more than 20 feet behind the one in front. Which in turn means anyone with the will to overtake has to go by 16 cars and that means speeds in excess 60, 70 or even 80 mph or forcing your way in between two tailgaters, neither action very clever or safe.

    If you are stuck behind someone doing 50 keep a safe distance behind them and either overtake when safe or stay where you are leaving enough room for anyone else to overtake you and pull in if need be.

    No body is as good a driver that they are above signing up for this driving course.

  • Colin Hunter

    • August 29th, 2013 14:16

    I have no argument whatsoever with people who wish to drive slowly. They are unlikely to have an accident due to their speed and are doing their bit to save the planet by using less fuel. One thing that does frustrate me, however, is when you come upon a line of such people, ambling along behind a slower vehicle and not leaving sufficient space between them to allow safe overtaking. You then have little option but to sit in the queue at whatever speed the leader dictates. I normally drop back from such a crocodile, and am invariably overtaken myself. The overtaker then finds it impossible to get any farther and so adds to the queue! Please people, if you don’t want to go at 60, can you at least leave a bit of space for people to get past you.

  • Andrew Gibson

    • August 29th, 2013 21:29

    Very well said Gordon regarding the queues of cars behind slower moving vehicles with just a few feet between each of them, leaving those who want to travel at the speed limit of 60mph unable to overtake, or only able to do so in a less than courteous manner.
    The question of slower moving vehicles forcing all other road users to travel at their speed raises its head in every part of the country, not just Shetland.

    Another issue regarding ‘slower’ moving vehicles and their lack of courtesy to other road users is highlighted in the many corners we have on Shetlands roads. They travel at 30-40mph around every corner, where faster moving vehicles are unable to overtake and then instantly speed up to 55-60mph when the road straightens. They will then whinge at the ‘mad’ drivers on Shetland roads when they are passed.
    Many of the roads lorries do pull over to allow the faster vehicle to pass safely, but very few car drivers show the same courtesy.

    Let’s not generalise that all fast drivers are right and all slow drivers are wrong, or for that matter, vice versa, but common courtesy to other road users would avoid many of the situations that leave people moaning or seething at perceived indiscretions. It is probable that it would also reduce, although unlikely to eliminate, the number of accidents caused by excessive speed.

  • Colin Hunter

    • September 1st, 2013 19:32

    I agree wholeheartedly with Andrew and his observation of the “speedup for straight bits / slow down for every corner” school of driving. There is hardly a corner between Brae and Lerwick that cannot be taken safely at the speed limit in normal conditions, yet when a corner looms, on come the brake lights and the speed drops to a crawl. This is particularly frustrating in a modern diesel car which is very high geared, because it means changing down to avoid labouring the engine and then speeding up again when they accelerate after the bend. It can’t do a lot for such peoples fuel consumption. I only know that my fuel readout dropped by 4 mpg (average) while following such a driver for several miles! Is it any wonder that we then zip past them at the first opportunity, if only to avoid insanity!
    Another, quite frightening, habit that some slow drivers seem to have perfected, is applying the brakes as soon as they see your indicator coming on to overtake. This is not only against advice in the highway code (Rule 168) that you should neither accelerate nor brake when being overtaken, but throws your overtaking manoeuvre into complete confusion. The Slow moving “crocodile” is also against highway code advice in Rule 169. Perhaps it’s time some people re-read it! It’s available as a FREE PDF download.


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