MORE than one in 10 fatal crashes in Scotland happened on a handful of the country's deadliest roads, an analysis by the Sunday Herald has found.
Figures show that 32 of the 202 fatal crashes in 2010 took place on five notorious stretches of road.
The worst black spot was the A9 Perth and Inverness route, where 10 were recorded. The A92, which stretches from Dunfermline to Stonehaven, recorded seven.
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Other roads which each recorded five were the A96 in the north, the A85 Oban to Perth route and the A82 from Glasgow to Fort William and Inverness.
While the overall death toll on Scotland's roads has fallen to its lowest level since records began, experts say more could be done to reduce fatalities on the most dangerous stretches.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, says human error is the biggest cause of road accidents, but that there is a "strong case" for improving road design.
He said: "Most people tend to go up and down these roads quite safely, but when things happen on certain roads in Scotland, the outcome tends to be very bad.
"Modern cars are very safe, with airbags and all that kind of stuff, so they protect the driver. Sometimes the roads don't."
Greig says a major problem on roads such as the A9 is that drivers become frustrated after getting stuck behind slow-moving vehicles.
"It is not the lorry driver's fault. He is going as fast as he can. It's often the driver of a car who makes the stupid overtake, but the road itself has contributed to a situation where that can happen. On long-distance trunk roads, we need to see more overtaking opportunities."
Greig says upgrading whole routes, rather than specific black spots at junctions, for example, requires long-term investment.
Reports of accidents on the five routes highlighted in our map crop up with alarming regularity. Last Thursday evening, a cyclist was seriously injured after a collision with a van on the A96 Elgin to Lhanbryde road. On the same day, a head-on crash was reported on the A85 near Perth. Six casualties were taken to hospital, but none were seriously injured.
Efforts are being made to improve the roads with plans set out last year to make the A9 completely two-way by 2025. The A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness will also be two-way by 2030.
Work is also ongoing to upgrade the A82, including the removal of traffic lights at Pulpit Rock and improvements at the Crianlarich bypass. Engineering and environmental surveys are also being undertaken to plan the next stage of the route.
However, the road continues to claim more victims. Earlier this month two men died following a crash involving a car and lorry on the A82 near Glencoe.
Stewart Maclean of the A82 Partnership, which campaigns for improvements to the route, says he does not foresee any additional improvements being made to the road in the next 15 to 20 years, outwith the current work taking place.
"The road is basically not fit for the volume of traffic," he said. "We are not looking for a dual carriageway. All we want is a road on which two large vehicles can pass comfortably without going off the road or bumping into each other's mirrors."
He added: "We shouldn't have to have an ongoing campaign to have what is so obviously a requirement for the economic and social life of the west Highlands. It needs a huge investment in time and money to bring it up to a standard which is suitable for the traffic which uses it."
A recent survey which assessed the quality of road safety markings on a small number of routes across the UK highlighted "barely visible" markings on the A92 and A85. The Road Safety Markings Association will carry out a more detailed investigation into the state of roads across Scotland this summer.
The A77, once notorious for accidents, recorded just one fatal crash in 2010 after improvements were made to the route, including the introduction of speed cameras along 32 miles of the road.
The analysis of the crash statistics shows that most accidents take place on A-class roads, with 4574 recorded in 2010. A total of 1422 occurred on B-class roads, while 370 were recorded on motorways.
The Scottish Government has set a target to reduce the number of people killed on Scotland's roads by 40% and reduce serious injuries by 55% by 2020. A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: "Even one death on our roads is unacceptable. Safer road design, improved speed management, continued maintenance and a better provision for vulnerable road users are among the steps being taken to reduce injuries and fatalities on Scotland's trunk roads."