An MSP has warned that people in the Highlands are at a “massively greater risk of losing their life” due to the lack of dual carriageways in the area, as new figures show a rise in the number of accidents involving tourists on Scotland’s roads.

According to figures obtained by The Herald under freedom of information (FOI), the number of collisions where a contributory factor was recorded as being ‘Inexperience driving on the left’ by Police Scotland has risen from 24 in 2022 to 28 in the nine months from January to September this year. 

Of the 24 collisions involving vehicles being driven by tourists to Scotland in 2022, 11 were categorised as being of a ‘serious’ collision severity, while of the 28 collisions recorded between January and September this year 14 were categorised as ‘serious’.

A total of four of the 52 collisions recorded on Scotland’s roads involving foreign motorists between January of 2022 and September 2023 were fatal, according to Police Scotland.

The remaining 23 of the 52 collisions recorded over the same period were categorised by Police Scotland as being of a ‘slight’ collision severity. 

READ MORE: Government under pressure as Highland road deaths reach highest level in 15 years

It comes after data from Transport Scotland showed a staggering increase in the number of fatalities on roads in the north of the country.

The data, released last month as part of Transport Scotland’s annual road casualties report, showed that the number of people killed on roads in the Highland Council area rose from 14 in 2021 to 32 in 2022 - the highest number of fatalities on roads in the local authority area since 2008. 

Most of the deaths, 20, were on trunk roads, which includes the A9 which runs from Perth to Inverness - frequently dubbed Scotland's most dangerous road. 

The Scottish Government committed to widening around 80 miles of single carriageway in 11 sections along the road in 2011, when it was estimated to cost £3 billion. 

However only 11 miles in two sections have been dualled since, leaving around 70 miles of road to still be upgraded. 

The Herald: Tourists driving on the wrong side of the road has long been an issue in Scotland.Tourists driving on the wrong side of the road has long been an issue in Scotland. (Image: Getty)

Fergus Ewing MSP said the figures obtained by The Herald on the number of collisions involving foreign motorists on Scotland’s roads proves it is “a very serious matter”.

Mr Ewing, the MSP for Inverness and Nairn, told The Herald: “I heard just recently from a constituent who told me that when driving on the A9, on a dualled section of the road, he encountered a vehicle driving towards him, on the wrong side of the road. This was a terrifying experience and one that can quite obviously result in multiple fatalities.

“Safety is paramount and driver errors lie behind incidents, but roads like the A9, where there is a rapid alternation between single and dual (and indeed “two plus one”) must cause confusion to many motorists, especially visitors to Scotland and those used to driving on the right hand side of the road. 

“The Road Safety Foundation survey found that the risk to road users is seven times greater on single carriageway A roads than motorways, and three times greater than dual carriageways.

“This means that people in the Highlands, which have the lowest proportion of dual carriageway in the UK, and no motorways at all, are, every day of their driving lives, at  massively greater risk of losing their life, or sustaining life changing disabilities.

READ MORE: Foreign motorists reminded to drive on left after tourist 'meltdown' video goes viral

“This underlines the need for the Scottish Government to deliver on its long standing pledges to dual both the A9 and the A96 - ones which the FM, Humza Yousaf has said as “cast iron guarantees”.   

“Despite that no further progress has been made since 2021 and the Scottish Governments much vaunted “autumn statement” has not been delivered, even though the leaves have fallen from most of the trees, as winter descends upon us.

“Unless the Scottish Government deliver, the SNP and Scottish Government will forfeit much support in the Highlands.”

Tourists driving on the wrong side of the road has long been an issue in Scotland.

In recent years, a number of fatal accidents and near-misses on the A9 involving drivers from overseas has provoked calls for more to be done to educate drivers.

The Herald: The A9 is frequently dubbed Scotland's most dangerous road. The A9 is frequently dubbed Scotland's most dangerous road.  (Image: .)

Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “I am supportive of all efforts to make our roads safer, and these statistics demonstrate that more work needs to be done to remind visitors to drive on the left.

“I have previously contacted car and campervan hire companies to raise awareness of this issue, and also held discussions with Transport Scotland, Police Scotland, VisitScotland and Highland Council officials to see what small improvements can be made.

“A whole range of initiatives have been explored, including increased signage and also tech companies reminding drivers to keep on the left.”

In response to the figures obtained by The Herald, a spokesperson for Road Safety Scotland said: “We know drivers from overseas may not be used to driving on the left or be unfamiliar with the road layout, but we still want them to visit and enjoy Scotland.

"We have made a considerable effort, working with the British Vehicle and Rental and Leasing Agency, Visit Scotland, Police Scotland and other partners to ensure we provide as much information as possible. In March, the campaign was relaunched to support people visiting and driving in Scotland.

READ MORE: 'Shocking indifference': Ministers' 'fail' over one of nation's most notorious roads

“We produced wristbands and leaflets in a number of languages, as well as a window sticker to remind drivers of the correct approach at junctions, and these were made available at airports, on ferries, at car rental venues, tourist spots and VisitScotland centres. In addition, a link to an online animated video was provided."

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “These up-front preparation costs are a normal aspect of delivering infrastructure projects of any scale. Delivery follows several consecutive stages: design and assessment of proposals, public and stakeholder consultation, statutory processes, procurement of works contracts and, finally, construction.

“Over £450m has been spent to date on the dualling of the A9 as part of normal preparations. This includes spend on preparatory work for all of the individual projects, as well as spend on land acquisition, construction of the two projects that have been completed to date, Kincraig to Dalraddy and Luncarty to Pass of Birnam, and advance works for future projects.

"The preparatory work includes technical and environmental surveys, preparation of outline designs for the projects, extensive public and landowner consultation, undertaking ground investigation work, and progressing projects through the necessary statutory processes. To date Ministerial decisions to complete the statutory processes have been confirmed for over 92% of the length to be dualled.

“Dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness is one of the biggest and most complex transport infrastructure projects in Scotland’s history. It is a significant undertaking which requires careful, in-depth planning and design to ensure that we deliver the right projects which when complete will bring many benefits to local communities, businesses and road users living, travelling and working along the route.

“It is essential that we follow due process with the dualling programme which rightly include the opportunity for local communities to input and have any objections received resolved appropriately. The A9 Dualling Programme is particularly complex in that it features 11 separate projects following the promotion process which have then been considered in various combinations to determine the most efficient approach to procurement and construction to both protect the public purse and minimise disruption to road users.”