Accidents on the A9

They happen all too often..Think before overtaking.

Above: Riders look on in 2010 as the A9 was blocked off after the 2010 accident.

As a photographer, I've attended a fair few accidents on the A9 road, only a few you could leave without feeling sad at what has just happened to someones loved on, or at least someones immediate health.

Above: 2010 and a Shearings coach full of tourers crashes off the A9, thankfully there were no serious injuries.

According to the A9 Safety Group, on the Perth to Tore Roundabout stretch 63% of fatal accidents are head on collisions. Head on accidents mostly happen because one driver is attempting to overtake another for whatever reason. By making a bad judgement call, the overtaking driver is potentially about to take the life of the driver/couple/family coming the opposite way. In some cases, the vehicle coming the opposite way has no time to react or no escape route away from the oncoming "weapon", life is from that on a Dice.

Slow moving vehicles such as lorries can prompt drivers to overtake, trying to make progress, but this is not the final story. Because many lorries travel under the maximum speed limit, it is often the case that another lorry driver chooses to overtake the slower lorry. On the dual section this can cause a simple inconvenience to cars who have been waiting for dual carriageway to overtake the lorries, only for one lorry to snake slowly past the slower lorry holding everyone up. On single carriageway one lorry overtaking another can be a potential killer situation.

Many stretches of the A9 can be deceitful, looking like a long straight "safe" stretch of road to overtake, that stretch can run out really quick, leaving the overtaking driver to cut in quickly after the manoeuvre. Making the situation worse is when (It happens, I travel this road regularly) a car being overtaken speeds up when the manoeuvre by the other car is not complete yet, this is simply dangerous and only aids the possibility of an accident.

A few accidents I have seen have been ones where no other vehicle is involved, a car crashing into an object roadside, a bus (I've seen 3) leave the road due to snow/ice and loss of control and more.

So, we have cars overtaking cars, cars overtaking lorries, lorries overtaking lorries and all of them have to be perfectly timed, otherwise we have the potential for problems.

The local emergency services in the Scottish Highlands are simply amazing, they deal with the most harrowing of situations under the most difficult conditions, they are totally underrated and underpaid.

One particular accident scene will not leave my mind, and I am sure both police, first responders and fire crews from Kingussie and Aviemore will never forget it either.

After a call from the local paper in Inverness, I made my way down South to what was described as an accident involving a car and motorbike. I will leave some details out, however what I saw on over two lanes was destroying. Boots, helmets, personal items such as toothbrushes, a hair brush, some crisps, a smashed up motorbike and car wrecked at the front. What I was seeing was the physical aftermath of what happens when things go seriously wrong on the A9 road, when a driver makes an error of judgement that kills a loving husband and wife.

2010, and Peter and Jacqueline Corris, from Lancashire were making their back from Thunder In The Glens on their beloved Harley Davidson. French road safety expert Roland Bayon thought he was still on dual carriageway (Court hearing information) and careered into the path of the couple. The car ploughed into Peter and Jacqueline, wiping them out. I must add that the other passengers travelling in the vehicle with Mr Bayon witnessed the horrific scene.

It was a dark year for Thunder in the Glen.



This was not simply a case of overtaking, Roland bayon thought he was still able to overtake, because he thought he was still on a dual carriageway.

About 8 years ago I had an early flight at Edinburgh. It was about 3am and I came off the dual carriageway, I did a similar thing. After the dual carriageway I was going round a lorry. Continuing the overtaking manoeuvre I saw another truck coming straight toward me, it took a few moments to sink in that A) The lorry was coming toward me and B) I was no longer on the dual carriageway. South of Dalwhinnie at Drummochter there is a section of dual carriageway where the Northbound and Southbound roads actually split apart, the Northbound is much further down the hill for most of the road, only at the ends to they come together to join up into single carriageway again.

I imagine that whilst the Corris accident could have NOT happened, the possibility of this sort of thing is there, there must be other people who have done this by mistake, but unfortunately two loving people died in 2010.

Nobody would have imagined that two years later, on a spectacular bridge crossing over the river Findgorn on the A9, yet another tragedy was to unfold, so awful was it that again another loving couple died on their Harley Davidson, this time no other vehicles were involved.

I have witnessed the aftermath of head on collisions, with one car there was little damage yet one person died. Another where two people died near Kingussie after a head on collision, these accidents happen too often and speeding up the duelling of the A9 road can only be put at the highest priority.

Above: 2013 and a motorcycle driver had to undergo an amputation after a multiple vehicle accident on the A9 road.

Film Layby 42 Charles Ingram

Film Layby 42 Charles Ingram

For the opening and closing scenes of the documentary "Layby 42", a look into the long term roadside resident Charles Ingram, I filmed using the DJI X5 drone.

I have undertaken many assignments involving the A9 road for press and various companies, however the time photographing Charles Ingram and filming the opening scene for the documentary, have been the most memorable so far.

I had photographed Charles Ingram for a number of media outlets previously, so during discussion with the film makers, it was decided that a dramatic opening sequence should include a long flyover of the A9 road near Dalwhinnie, a spectacular long road surrounded by craggy mountains that stretch into the wilderness of the Highlands.

An early morning freezing start and a whole lot of timing to keep both distances using spotters and the producers vehicle.

Charles was evicted from his "camp" on the A9, during the scuffle Charles appeared to have hit a Messenger-At-Arms with a mug. Charles's Mercedes was taken off him for some reason and he then got hold of a Fiat car, he lived in this for a while at Broxden Services. Charles has since moved on from this location.

Images below from stills of the opening scene and from when Mr Ingram still resided slightly North of House of Bruar:

Above: Still from the documentary

Above: Charles hangs up his trousers after washing them in the River Garry

Above: Raw emotion

A9 Road safety statistics and facts

Accident statistics:

Please see the official A9 safety group website for more information on A9 accident statistics here

See the Transport Scotland official Scottish accident statistics here

Facts:

Average speed cameras:

  • The average speed cameras on the A9 are equipped with Automatic Number Plate Reading (ANPR) digital technology to recognise your registration
  • The A9 average cameras cover the longest distance in the UK (99 Miles).
  • Less than 4 people per day are recorded as having committing a speeding offence by the average cameras on the A9

Personal Assumptions on fixed installed average speed cameras on the A9 road (Note this may not be fact, so no responsibility can be taken whatsoever, this is simply a personal assumption):

  • It appears that recording works between two average speed camera units.
  • Dual sections do not yet appear to be covered by the cameras as of 16th December 2016 probably due to the location of each camera eg; no cameras sit directly before and directly after each dualled section, these would have to be installed before these sections could be covered accurately.
  • The a9.info website suggests that less than 4 people per day are being recorded as having committing a speeding offence, yet around 3 in 20 are recorded as having being over the speed limit.
  • It appears the tolerance is 10MPH over the prescribed limit.

To me, there appears to be a high tolerance toward speeding drivers, and the dual carriageways are not covered. Why is this?

See the A9 Safety group regular reports: A9 safety group reports

Speed limits:

  • The speed limit on single carriageway is 60MPH for cars, and 50MPH for lorries.
  • On dual carriageways the speed limit is 70MPH for cars, and 50MPH for lorries.
  • Temporary speed limits may be imposed along the way, for example the Kincraig to Dalraddy roadworks (Dualling) has variable speed limits, these are set for all vehicles using the road.

Winter safety

During winter months the rate of accidents increases due to various elements like ice, snow, fog and even the position of the sun.

Above: Nobody injured, but one lorry out of service

By following this easy guide, you'll increase the chance of having a safe journey on the A9 each and every time you travel. Lets first look at the elements, and what they can do to affect your driving!

  • Ice / snow

Ice is caused by low temperatures, during winter even when the daytime temperature rises and the sun shines, ice can persist.

Be aware that there may be ice when you least expect it. Keep your speed down, you don't need to keep up with the speed limit and do not let other cars intimidate you, if it feels better for you, pull over safely into a lay-by when there is a queue behind you, allow other vehicles to pass then continue your journey safely.

Fact: At just 60MPH (A9 speed limit) it will take your car a total of 73 Metres to stop (Up to 10X more than that on ice/snow!). Imagine a broken down car or object in the way, will you be able to stop before colliding?

Loss of control is a major factor when braking in adverse weather conditions. If you do feel loss of control, do not slam on the brakes, do not try to turn rapidly as your car will likely lose control and you may end up worse off than simply easing off the accelerator and slowing down gradually.

Ice will likely form more on bridges and exposed areas.

  • Low sun

You will at some point be affected by low sun at some point. A low winter sun can affect visibility, whether that be when you turn into the winter sun or drive toward it. Remember, you should at all times be able to see in front of you, so use the sun visor and bring your speed down, you never know if you will hit a queue of cars, a stray animal or broken down vehicle.

Glare from the low winter sun can be dangerous because its like a bright headlight in the front of your car when you are facing it

Tip: Keep a pair of sunglasses in your vehicle, ready when they are needed.

  • Fog

Font think that it is safe to continue through a block of fog at your usual speed, slow down, it may be possible that there is a collision in front, should you continue at near or max speed limit into a non moving vehicle, chances are there will be a very serious accident. If there is fog evident, slow down to a speed that you believe will provide a decent stopping time should you come across a stationary vehicle or object. Many goods lorries travel up the A9 every day, objects can and do come off of them, they can cause your car to lose control.

During winter months, you are advised to keep in your car:

  •  At least one high visibility jacket. Even if you have an accident or breakdown and are safe, you are in a vulnerable position beside a fast road, and should be seen by other vehicles.
  • Warning triangle. If safe to install, place around 50 Metres behind your stationary car, at the side of the road, do this safely then retreat a good distance back from the kerb.
  • Snow shovel. Cars have little grip on snow and ice, should the car slide off the road it may be possible to dig some snow out to clear a way for your car. If you do slide off the road and attempt to drive it back onto the road, make sure you have a lookout, to make sure you are not driving onto the road when vehicles are approaching. Do not accelerate rapidly as this may dig the car down into the mud.
  • Blanket or 4. Like below, if you get stuck for an extended period whilst waiting for help, you'll want to keep warm. Remember, if your car breaks down, unless it is right off the road you should not be sitting in it, seek urgent help and shelter.
  • Fluids and high calorie snacks. Should you get stuck for an extended period whilst waiting for assistance, you should be comfortable, fed and watered!

Above: This Blythswood charity lorry, ready to deliver overseas aid of donated items, was put out of service after this accident in 2015.

 

About Aaron Sneddon

Photographer from the ground and air

This website is managed by Aaron Sneddon, Press and Aerial photographer. Aaron is a CAA approved UAV operator, using All Nikon full frame equipment on the ground, and uses both the DJI Inspire X5 and X3 in the air.

  • +447796345863
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • http://www.aaronsneddon.com | http://www.aerialscotland.co.uk