‘Safe Driving in the North’ – organised by the Highland Construction Training Group (HCTG) and funded by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) – took place at Tulloch Caledonian stadium on Wednesday and Thursday. Emergency services experts including Police Scotland, the Fire and Ambulance services, Highland Council Road Safety and the Scottish Government’s Health and Safety Executive, provided talks and practical training.
Attendees also heard from Munlochy nurse, Rachael MacDonald, who urged the audience to pay attention to road safety. She courageously shared the story of her older brother, Andrew, who sadly died in a road traffic accident in Carrbridge in 2012.
Speaking at Safe Driving in the North, Rachael said: “I know that travelling these same roads every day in the North involves risk. Many people have no option other than to do this just to get to and from work – but some don’t realise just how dangerous a momentary lapse of concentration can be. Andrew’s death had no clear cause at the time, we still don't know why his car went off the road. It’s tough for me and my family to talk about what happened to Andrew, but if his story, and this event, help to prevent just one accident – or even save another person’s life – it's not all in vain.”
For several years, serious road traffic incidents including fatalities have been reported on the A9, A82 and associated rural roads, due to a combination of speeding and environmental factors.
The main causes of collisions on Highland roads are excessive speed and drivers who are distracted or drink driving. Apprentices and staff at Safe Driving in the North learned how to deal with potentially hazardous conditions on major roads like the A9, which runs from Inverness to Edinburgh – and the A82, which connects Glasgow to Inverness via Fort William.
Ian Phillips, Chairman of the Highland Council Training Group (HCTG) and Operations Director of Robertson Group, said: “Over the last five years, the busiest roads in the North of Scotland have had a serious crash rate of at least one per week. That’s why this it’s so important to raise awareness and deliver training to keep our workers a safe as possible on the roads.
“I’m delighted that HCTG was able to secure funding and support from CITB to deliver the event to around 120 apprentices and workers. I’m extremely grateful to all our partners who gave up their time to deliver such a successful event. We are particularly indebted to Rachael for sharing such an important and moving story about her brother Andrew. She has inspired and encouraged everyone to think more carefully whenever they’re behind the wheel.”
Ian Hughes, Strategic Partnerships Director, CITB Scotland said: “We wholeheartedly agree with HCTG’s approach to road safety, and to making sure that we do everything we can to protect apprentices and construction workers both onsite, and as they travel to work. I’d like to thank Highland Construction Training Group, the emergency services, Highland Council and the Scottish Health and Safety Executive for their invaluable input into this fantastic event.”
Yvonne Campbell, Community Firefighter, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We are delighted to have attended and supported Safe Driving in the North.
“Following a live road traffic collision demonstration involving Firefighters & Scottish Ambulance Service personnel, all apprentices got the opportunity try our Virtual Reality headsets which gave them the immersive experience of being a passenger in a road traffic collision.
“They were able to see first-hand the consequences of peer pressure, distraction and careless driving. We want to encourage our young drivers to discuss, challenge and influence distracting behaviour in themselves, their family members and their peers, to ensure our roads will become safer in the future for all who use them.”
Constable Alan Maclennan, Preventions and Interventions Officer, Police Scotland said:
“Road safety is a priority for Police Scotland and we are committed to working in partnership with various different agencies to reduce the number of serious incidents on our roads.
"The work is as much about prevention and awareness as enforcement. If we get a positive message across which encourages a driver to think about their behavior behind the wheel then that could prevent a serious incident.
"Events such as this in the north of Scotland help to highlight the potentially devastating consequences of even momentary inattention on the road.”
Lisa MacKellaich, Highland Council’s Road Safety Officer, said: “For over 10 years we have been delivering Driving Ambition (young driver road safety education) in Highland secondary schools aimed at 5th and 6th year pupils. We recognise that some young drivers who leave school at the end of 4th year to start as apprentices have missed out on the scheme and we are delighted to support the training of those young people.”