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’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.”