The chair of Orkney Council’s Road Safety Forum has said he would have “no strong objection” to reducing more speed limits in the county.
This comes following figures from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SRFS) which showed Orkney has had the highest rate of fatalities at road traffic collisions (RTC) per 10,000 population in the nation.
Four people were killed on the county’s roads in the past 12 months. Firefighters attended 14 collisions in the same period – a number that has been rising year on year.
Councillor David Dawson was appointed chair of the forum earlier this month.
Mr Dawson is also chair of the Police and Fire Sub-committee and had a decades-long career in the police.
He said: “While it’s based on a statistic that’s per 10,000 of population, it’s still worrying that we’ve had an increase in fatalities in the past 12 months.
“That highlights the potential road safety issues out there that need to be addressed.
“I’ve had regular complaints about driving behaviour and we witness it ourselves when we’re out and about.
Speeding, no seatbelts, on phones
Mr Dawson said he sees speeding, drivers not wearing seat belts, and drivers using mobile phones “all the time”.
He said he’d seen an HGV driver using a mobile phone while driving very recently.
He added: “It worries me that people ignore the road safety issues. It’s not just ignoring the law, it’s ignoring the fact that if you’re on a phone your attention is impaired.”
Orkney’s roads being in good condition is actually contributing to speeding, he said.
“The time has come for us to look at raising the awareness level. No doubt police Scotland will be looking to raise their enforcement actions as well.”
The recent figures from the SRFS generated quite a bit of debate on social media. A Facebook post from BBC Radio Orkney had Orcadians thinking about how safe their roads really are.
A prevailing theme, raised by Facebook users, was the quality of driving in the county. Questions were also raised about speed limits on Orkney’s roads.
Mr Dawson was asked about the council’s ability to change speed limits and if he thought this would help.
He said: “Obviously, there are national criteria that have to be met, in relation to imposing speed limits.
“For instance, there was a private members bill that went through parliament two years ago to reduce all 30mph limits in Scotland to 20mph. That failed.
“There are arguments both ways. But, we know reductions in speed limits work. We’ve all seen the statistics around a pedestrian being struck at 30mph compared to 20mph.”
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“Yes, the council has within its gift to reduce speed limits on the approach to towns, such as was done at the crossroads at Hatston Park.
“I would have no strong objections to 30mph limits being reduced to 20mph in built-up areas in the town.
“Yes, people would break that, but chances are they’d be pushing up to 30mph. At the moment people can creep up to 40mph.
“That reduction down to 20mph does make a difference.”
However, the problems aren’t just in the county’s built-up areas.
But, Orkney Council says it is doing its part. It has introduced 30mph on sections of seven roads around the county in recent months.
This came after a review of the limits in April last year, instigated by communities and councillors.
Stromness to Kirkwall crash
However, a traffic collision took place on one of Orkney’s main roads just this week.
The two-vehicle incident took place on the Stromness to Kirkwall Road on Tuesday, closing the junction at Sandwick.
Thankfully, it was reported that there didn’t appear to be any serious casualties.
And there is no suggestion that speed or anything mentioned in this story played a part.
A road safety event is planned for Orkney on July 2.
It is hoped this will reduce the number of accidents and fatalities, as the SRFS says it has done in the past.