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Tired taxi driver motorway death triggers trial of new technology to alert road users

2 Oct 2019


Electronic warning signs triggered by vehicles driving the wrong way onto motorways are being trialled in Scotland following a series of fatal crashes, including a Edinburgh taxi driver.  

John Nisbet, 72, had just completed a 13-hour shift when he drove into oncoming traffic on the A1 near Wallyford, East Lothian.

Mr Nisbet suffered fatal injuries from the collision which took place in November 2016.

The pensioner, from Edinburgh, smashed head-on with a Peugeot Boxer vehicle between the Old Craighall and Wallyford junctions of the A1.

A fatal collision investigation determined that Mr Nisbet had become disorientated due to tiredness.

Sheriff Michael O'Grady QC wrote in his final determination: "Mr Nisbet had for many years worked as a taxi driver and, despite his age, continued to do so.

"On this particular evening he was working a long shift. Although he had a break that evening, going home for a meal, he was observed by his wife at that stage to be tired which, given his age and his working hours that day is unsurprising.

"Mr Nisbet drove his vehicle down what was in fact the off slip road on the motorway. In so doing he inevitably emerged from that slip road to find himself facing north on the southbound carriageway, that is to say, facing the wrong way towards oncoming traffic.

"It was in that context that the collision took place and in the circumstances such a collision was almost inevitable.

"Mr Nisbet was a hardworking and experienced driver and why such an incident should occur has inevitably to be a matter of inference.

"On the available evidence however police investigators have, in my view correctly, been forced to the conclusion that the deceased was suffering from fatigue and that his perception of the road layout and his judgement were thereby impaired; he simply made a mistake when he was tired.

"The sole cause of the collision was driver fatigue; the danger of this is well-known to professional and non-professional drivers alike and indeed is regularly seen in admonitions on motorway signs, service stations and indeed, in many cases, even on computerised driver displays with in cars."

Mr Nisbet's son Eddie, paid tribute to his father, saying: "It goes without saying that as a family we are utterly heartbroken by my father's recent passing.

"The warmth, humour, generosity and compassion that John brought to the lives of his family and friends is truly immeasurable. His loss has left a void that will be impossible to fill.

"His doting wife, Gaye, will forever cherish their 32 years of marriage after falling in love at first sight. He was her hero, her best friend and ultimately her life - her heart will forever belong to him.

"A huge personality in golfing, taxi driving and snooker circles across the city, he left an indelible mark on a vast amount of people.

"We have been overwhelmed by the depth of sentiment that has been expressed to us over the past days. We are now getting a true feel for just how popular and well-loved he is, which has offered us a huge amount of comfort."  


According to The Scotsman, the new technology being trialled involves a flashing lights system and no entry symbols being illuminated when it detects drivers who have taken a wrong turning onto a slip road.

The possible lifesaving technology - a UK-first - is being tested at junctions on the M9 in West Lothian and the A1 in East Lothian where there have been fatal crashes. 


A spokesman for Transport Scotland, which is responsible for trunk roads, said: “The use of vehicle-activated wrong direction signs on selected trunk road network off-slips is an important element in the successful delivery of our strategic road safety plan.

“It is our hope the innovative signage, along with associated signing and road marking, will help prevent serious accidents and incidents where drivers have travelled the wrong way along a slip road towards traffic moving at high speed, risking a head-on collision.

“The trial is still in the early stages. Full evaluation is required before a decision is taken on wider roll out of the signage.” 


Image: Source;  Police Scotland 

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