The most senior police officer in the Highlands has issued a stark warning about carelessness on north roads after a spate of fatal accidents.
Six people died in a series of accidents in the region earlier this year
Divisional Commander Julian Innes stressed he was not prejudging the outcome of active accident investigations, but had formed a view that many accidents were being caused by careless driving rather than speeding.
He has pledged a thorough review of each incident “to learn the lessons”.
Chief Superintendent Innes, who at 49 is approaching retirement after 30 years service, dismissed any suggestion that the accident rate reflected any failing of the force’s regular safe driving campaigns.
He said it was disappointing, as part of his routine duties, to have recently informed Highland councillors about six fatal crashes within a matter of weeks, earlier this year.
“Five of the six who died were drivers,” Mr Innes said. “It hadn’t struck me in such an apparent way before, but it was evident from the context of reporting for that period that five of the six drivers involved in collisions were actually killed themselves.
“I am generalising, because it’s not appropriate to go into specific details, but I think there is a degree of carelessness involved by drivers that is resulting in deaths.”
He said his heart always went out to friends and family who had lost loved ones, but that he also acknowledged the impact on the wider community.
“These tragedies are felt extremely sorely across the Highlands and islands, particularly when young people are involved, and we’ve lost a number of young people on the roads in recent weeks,” Mr Innes said.
“What we’ll do is examine the cause of each accident to see if there’s anything we can learn from it and then if we can educate the public that might prevent another death on the road.
“We’re active in secondary schools delivering a programme of ‘driving ambitions’.
“If anything, the recent deaths of young people on the roads gives me more fire in my belly to make sure that education activity is refreshed, renewed and we put energy into that in the coming years to prevent another death.”
Mr Innes is confident the force will meet incremental Scottish Government targets, running until 2020, for reducing fatal collisions and serious injury accidents.
The number of fatals in the region dropped slightly last year.
Mr Innes said: “The general trend is good, but one death – particularly when it involves a young person – makes me reflect and reassess what we have been doing and see if there’s anything else we could or should be doing,”