THE FINDINGS of a fatal accident inquiry which concluded that a lorry driver's death could have been avoided has been described as a timely reminder by police anxious to stop a repeat of last summer's carnage on the A9.
Sheriff Ian Abercrombie stated that the accident in which Alexander Warden, (64), was killed could have been prevented if the drivers of the three HGVs involved had shown more care and attention.
In the wake of the report, one Badenoch Highland councillor has urged local motorists to report lorry drivers breaking the law if they wanted the A9 to lose its tag as Scotland's most deadly road.
Eight people died in just two months in accidents on the road in Badenoch and Strathspey last summer.
Sheriff Abercrombie's report, which was published this week, noted that it must have been evident to Mr Warden that there was on- coming traffic when he pulled out to overtake on the Nuide Straight near Newtonmore.
He also believes more could have been done by the two other lorry drivers to prevent the smash shortly after 11am on July 3 last summer.
Mr Warden, from Arbroath, died from multiple injuries about an hour after his lorry collided head-on with another goods vehicle around 40 metres from the start of the south-bound overtaking lane on the straight.
The driver employed by Inverness-based agricultural feed maker Harbro had been transporting a load south to a customer in Stirling in good weather when he decided to overtake a slower lorry at Nuide.
When he pulled out into the opposite carriageway, the Sheriff stated Mr Warden would have seen traffic heading towards him but he did not slow down and abandon his attempt to overtake.
Instead he carried on with the manoeuvre despite approaching an arrow on the road surface indicating that vehicles should return to the southbound carriageway.
Mr Dominic Booth, from Livingston, the driver of the slower lorry, failed to disengage his cruise control to allow his vehicle to slow down and let the other truck to pass more quickly.
This, the inquiry found, was despite him being aware that he was being overtaken and that there was on-coming traffic.
Mr Booth applied his brakes hard at the last minute when the collision was almost unavoidable.
Mr Warden crashed head-on into a van driven by Mr James Brown, of Glasgow, who suffered such serious head injuries in the accident that he was unable to attend the inquiry and has little recall of the incident.
In his report, Sheriff Abercrombie noted: "There are no reasonable precautions whereby Mr Warden's death and the accident resulting in his death might have been avoided apart from the avoidance of the accident itself.
"This could have been achieved by the deceased, Mr Booth and Mr Brown driving with greater care and attention at the material time."
Mr Warden and Mr Booth had been driving in excess of the 40mph speed limit for their vehicles. Mr Warden's lorry was travelling at 56mph while Mr Booth's vehicle was moving at 49mph.
The report noted: "Mr Warden did not, when the on-coming traffic became visible to him, slow down and return to the southbound carriageway.
"This could have been done as both vehicles proceeding immediately behind him ... were aware of the difficulties posed by the on-coming vehicles and had slowed down their vehicles."
Mr Warden was not wearing a seatbelt but the Sheriff said that the nature of the impact and the resulting damage to his cab would have made no difference to the injuries he sustained.
The Sheriff also recorded his sympathies for relatives of Mr Warden and the family of Mr Brown, who was still undergoing treatment for serious head injuries sustained in the crash.
His report concluded: "It is all too easy at these inquiries to lose sight of the human tragedy which has caused the inquiry to take place in the first place."
Chief Inspector Donald Henderson, who is based at Aviemore police station, said the findings of the FAI should serve as a warning to motorists. The police chief said the time of year had arrived when there was an increased volume of visitors on local roads.
"Last summer there were quite a number of serious accidents over a short period of time and this report is a very timely reminder of the need to pay attention at all times."
Local Highland councillor Gregor Rimell, who lives in Newtonmore, said some "selfish" HGV drivers helped to increase frustration for other road users.
"We are getting more passing places on the road to help ease frustration but when a selfish HGV driver decides to pass another large slow-moving vehicle, that can use up the whole passing stretch."
He added: "We need better policing of the type of driving we can see with some HGVs.
"I think it would be appropriate for local residents to report to the police any instance where they see HGV drivers misbehaving because the consequences can be extremely serious.
"I believe it is the same culprits who behave this way whenever they drive through this area."
As someone who once plied that A9 four days a week, and once a week to Newcastle with a tanker, I can assure anyone who cares that mad bad drivers are not confined to the A9. They are spread quite evenly throughout these fine island's.
It is my honest beleif that the A9 has built into it a particular set of problems that catch out the bad and the mad much much more than for example the A69 which I drove regularly. Everyone knows that the A69 is a pig of a road and most drive accordingly. I have seen the ones that don't being scraped into body bags. The A9 because it has sections of good dual carriageway and then sections of A class, lures the inattentive, the stupid, the arrogant drivers into thinking they have more room than they have and suddenly it is to late to change your mind because as was the case in this accident you are along side some boorish pig ignorant knuckle dragger driver who either puts his foot down to prevent your legitimate ovetaking manouvere, or will not give way when the law clearly states he should. This boorish pig ignorance is not confined to LGVs, they in general are much more forgiving than car drivers, and much more skilled.
The particular section at Newtonmore is for what ever reason one place where you are guaranteed to have someone pull out of the junction in front of you, or begin an overtake that they have no chance of completing safetly. I watched in horror one day as a car and caravan drove staight out in front of the truck in front of me from the junction, and when the truck flashed his lights and blew his rather loud air horns the maniac braked hard and stuck his two fingers up at the truck driver. He was not to know that he was heading into traffic lights and a long long queue of holiday traffic at the roadworks just round the next bend. Neither was he to know that someone who witnessed the incident had phoned the police. There was plenty of time at the road works for him to be given his annual interview by the truck driver and then as if by magic a squad car arrived and pulled him out of the queue. I do hope he was charged.
The A9 should never ever have been configured the way it was. A cheap nasty political fix, that has taken many many lives. If the SNP deliver the dual carriageway to Inverness they are to be comended. However in my opinion it should go all the way to Thurso, Scrabster and Wick. Global warming means that Scapa Flow will become one of the busiest sea ports on earth as shipping starts to use the ice free polar navigation option. We will need much better roads to the north than we presently have.