More dispatches from the roads of Argyll…

Another brush with eternity this morning…

I travel the road between Dunoon and Lochgilphead regularly- three times this week. It is a 120 mile round trip on rural roads- in particular the beautiful yet infamous A83– one of the most dangerous roads in the country.

Road conditions are particularly bad at the moment as they are full of pot holes opened up by the winter ice. This damage adds to the fact that Argyll’s roads are the worst maintained in the whole of Scotland (according to Audit Scotland- see here.) I have had to replace two buckled wheels, two coil springs and track rod ends on my car in the last year and a half.

But the simple fact is that most of these accidents are not related to the road conditions- this from a government report-

1.5 This existing information shows that a greater proportion of all types of road users, except pedestrians, are killed on roads in non-built-up areas and, with the exception of pedestrians and pedal cyclists, a greater proportion are killed or seriously injured on these roads. Car-users account for over 70% of all killed or seriously injured casualties on non-built-up roads and most car occupant fatalities occur on non-built-up roads.

1.6 Locally managed, non-built-up A-roads and B-roads have the highest accident rate per vehicle-kilometre in Scotland, while motorways have markedly lower accident rates per vehicle-kilometre. Most rural accidents on single-carriageways occur on A-roads in 60mph (miles per hour) speed limits away from junctions. Single vehicle accidents account for one-third of all rural single-carriageway accidents. These are most likely to occur on bends, at night on B- or C-roads 3 and involve younger drivers.

1.7 Higher severity rates on non-built-up roads are considered likely to be associated with higher speeds on those roads. Rates increase in darkness, though the type of road (non-built-up versus built-up) appears to be a more important factor than light conditions. Poor road conditions (i.e. wet or with ice, frost or snow) appear to affect severity rates less. In absolute numbers, around half of those killed or seriously injured are involved in accidents on dry roads. There is some evidence from previous research to suggest that attitude rather than skill is related to crash involvement. This is particularly the case on rural roads due to higher speeds.

Have I driven too fast on these roads? Yes. Have I had numerous near misses due to other people driving too fast? You bet.

But lest we all kid ourselves that we can control the unexpected in such conditions, today I was witness to a rather typical accident.

There is a stretch of road a few miles beyond Inveraray that climbs over a hill, through some cleared forestry, just before Auchindrain. It is one  the usual overtaking spots- and regular drivers of the A83 value these places to get past slow lines of forest lorries or rubber necking tourists.

Today I approached just as another car was being beckoned past a white van. Just as it got past I positioned my car to do the same, but then caught sight of the other car spinning on the slick road surface, before it rolled end over end off the road and into a field.

The driver was not driving recklessly or too fast. It was not raining, and although there was a little mist around, the road was dry. Rather he had the misfortune to attempt a standard maneuver on a piece of road where the combination of adverse camber and slick road surface combined to over come the adhesion of his car to the road.

A chaos of car tyres and narrow misses.

No one else stopped, and I found myself wading through mud to try to help. Fortunately the drivers injuries were not severe- mainly cuts and from glass.

It could have been so much worse. The place were we stood waiting for ambulance and police was covered with the debris of previous accidents- including syringes and gloves left by paramedics. The old ash tree there had pieces of Mercedes van still embedded in it.

There is a thin veil sometimes between this world and whatever is still to come.

Seperated by a tyre tread.

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