Whether it’s summer holiday road trips with the kids or days out with your friends, we often overlook the fact that driving can be dangerous. As well as carrying out all initial safety checks when you get into your car, it’s worth paying a little extra attention to areas that the data confirms are more dangerous than others. It could be rural roads that are trickier to navigate, or other road users in inner-city areas; whatever the situation, it doesn’t hurt to be a little extra cautious and vigilant.
With the summer fast approaching and people likely wanting to travel further afield, John Clark wanted to take a look at the data to establish which areas in Scotland are the most and least dangerous for drivers, as well as the impact of the choice of car on safety. We looked at 2022 data across Scotland to examine how many road incidents were marked as ‘Killed’ or ‘Serious Incident’ (KSI) for each local authority to deduce the most and least dangerous.
Don’t be deceived by their scenic nature; the dramatic landscapes that offer access to the coast, and the highlights of the Hebrides actually ranked highest in our study for the most dangerous areas for drivers. Argyll and Bute had 66.11 accidents per 100,000 inhabitants registered as KSI. If you’re the designated driver, be sure to pay more attention to the roads than the scenic visuals en route, as the rural nature of the area means a lot of single-track roads and blind corners.
Similarly, the local authority of Highland ranked in second position, with 62.59 fatal or serious incidents per 100,000 inhabitants. The area is the largest local government area in the UK and recently allocated over £7 million to fix the worst of the roads spanning landscapes across the mainland and inner-Hebridean areas within the council’s jurisdiction. Tourists regularly visit the area considering Inverness is the start and end point of the North Coast 500 (NC500), often touted as Scotland’s own Route 66. The trickiest aspect of the road trip also falls within the Highland authority- Bealach na Bà. The curvy mountainous road is single-track and features sharp bends, gradients of up to 17%, and few passing places, it is also one of the highest in the country.
And in third position, is the area of Perth and Kinross with 59.81 fatal or serious incidents per 100,000 inhabitants. In the Lowlands area, Perth is regularly frequented by tourists and is the only city within the area, while the Highlands area features small towns like Pitlochry and Aberfeldy. Some of the terrains can be particularly difficult to navigate as the area straddles the divide between lowlands and highlands.
Conversely, ranking amongst the least fatal and serious incidents and appearing to be one of the safer places to drive in Scotland is Aberdeen City. The city had almost 6 times fewer incidents per 100,000 inhabitants than the most dangerous area Argyll and Bute, with 11.87. The council has also recently proposed changes to the road networks which would see potential additions of miles of new bus lanes and cycle routes to create the Ellon Park and Ride to Garthdee transport corridor, which has been met with mixed responses.
Ranking in second position was Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, an island group off the West of Scotland that offers a rugged, coastal landscape. The area had 15.02 fatal or serious incidents per 100,000 inhabitants according to 2022 data.
And in third position, West Dunbartonshire, bordering the most dangerous area to drive in Scotland, Argyll and Bute. The area had 17.09 fatal or serious incidents per 100,000 inhabitants, slightly less than the nearby East Dunbartonshire which ranked in fifth with 22.04 per 100,000 inhabitants.
The most popular car in Scotland according to SMMT data for the quarter to date was the trusty Vauxhall Corsa. With an overall 4-star rating by the NCAP and an adult occupant protection score of 84%, this car ranks in joint second position with the Vauxhall Grandland X out of the five top popular cars.
The second most popular car came in as the Vauxhall Mokka, which ultimately ranked closer to the bottom of the list in terms of adult occupant protection with an overall score of 73%. The only car ranking lower than this in protecting adult passengers in instances of crashes was the Dacia Duster. This vehicle was the only one in the top 5 that had a 3-star rating overall and an adult occupant score of 71%. The vehicle is primarily let down by its ranking for safety assist, where other vehicles in the top five scored 60% and above, the Dacia scores just 37%. The brand adds less additional driver assistance systems for the benefit of keeping costs low for customers.
For those looking to make a conscientious change when it comes to the safety of their vehicle, the following are good options based on high rankings for adult occupant protection.
If you’re looking for a vehicle that scores highly across both adult and child occupant protection, look no further than the Mercedes EQ EQE and the Tesla Model S. Both secured a five-star Euro NCAP rating, with the Mercedes scoring 95% for adult occupant safety and the Tesla scoring 94%, both scoring 91% for child occupant safety, the highest out of all of the vehicles including within our top 15, and above 80% for both vulnerable road user safety and safety assist. Out of all of the vehicles included within the top 15, the two Tesla models scored highest for safety assistance with an overall score of 98%. Equally, when it came to adult occupant protection, the VW Taigo and VW Polo scored 94%, therefore ranking in the same position as the Tesla Model S.
The Cupra Born also ranked within the top 10, scoring 93% for adult occupant safety, 89% for child occupant safety, 73% for vulnerable road users, and 80% for safety assistance features. A new brand, the Born is the first all-electric model and is based on tried and tested Volkswagen parts, including platform, battery, and motors taken from the VW ID.3, ID. 4, and ID. 5. Additionally, the model features useful safety assistance such as predictive adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, semi-autonomous driving capability, side exit assistance, a top view camera, and emergency assistance.
For regular drivers, safety isn’t perhaps something that is at the forefront of their minds prior to driving. Whether it’s a road trip or simply a necessary part of the day to get from A to B, it’s something that is always worth bearing in mind and not becoming complacent over. While some roads may be statistically more dangerous than others, as drivers we can take control to ensure we’re being as safe as possible. Whether that’s strategically choosing your next car, or taking safety precautions such as pulling over when you’re tired or zoning out, we have the power to make our next drive a safe one.
We analysed transport data from Gov.uk for every local authority in Scotland in 2022, looking at the killed or seriously injured (KSI) adjusted figures, and then calculating these per 100,000 inhabitants to produce a comparable figure.
We then looked at the most popular cars in Scotland according to SMMT data (April 2023) and then used Euro NCAP to determine how these rank in terms of safety. We then also compiled the safest vehicles for adult occupants according to the Euro NCAP 2022 list.