Winter road maintenance and road traffic accidents

Winter road maintenance and road traffic accidents At this time of year driving can become perilous. A combination of ice, wind, rain, snow, fog and dark, wintry evenings can lead to hazardous road conditions and car accidents. When you take your car out on a wintry morning you are more at risk of being involved in a car crash than during the light warm summer months. The worst months of the year for accidents are October and November between the hours of 4pm and 5pm. 42% of road deaths occur in the dark. As weather conditions deteriorate in autumn and winter the roads become more dangerous.

The roads are maintained by the Highways Agency, an Executive Agency for the Department of Transport, who salts and grits the motorways and trunk roads. Other smaller roads are gritted by local councils although some rural roads are not covered at all. The Highways Agency aims to reduce delays and the amount of road traffic accidents by clearing snow and preventing the formation of ice. The gritting service depends on the weather forecast and there is therefore room for error. Teams of gritters are on nightly standby throughout the country in the winter months. They wait for the temperature to drop to around 1° and are then called in for gritting.

An error of around 1° is crucial when the temperature is about zero, but is not as critical when the temperature is about 5°. Local expertise and experience is vital around the time when gritters are in operation. Precautionary gritting is carried out in the evening after the rush hour and first thing in the morning before the morning traffic. Personal injury claim Unfortunately there still many car accidents and road traffic accidents involving motorcycles and lorries every year in the UK due to adverse weather conditions. Whilst many of the accidents that occur are as a result of driver error or carelessness, some can be attributed to a failure on the part of the agencies in charge of road maintenance, to grit the roads.

If a driver has a car accident because of icy or snowy conditions that could have been avoided because the agency in charge of this had failed to grit the road, then a personal injury claim may be brought against the agency. If the driver is injured and their vehicle is damaged then they may be entitled by law to claim compensation if it can be proven that someone else was at fault. The Highways Agency and each council have criteria for gritting. Unfortunately on occasions the roads may not be gritted because they could not predict the adverse weather conditions.

If an accident occurs when the roads should reasonably have been gritted, then compensation could be sought. These cases can be complicated and it may be difficult to prove that a local authority or government agency was responsible for the accident. If you have been in a car accident that was caused by black ice on a road you believe should have been gritted then you may want to seek legal advice about your position.

What should you do if you have an accident? If you have had a road traffic accident that you believe was not your fault then you may be entitled to make a personal injury claim. You can get free legal advice at or you can call on 0800 78 38 846 to learn more.

Avoiding accidents Although we do rely on road maintenance to a large extent to keep our roads safe we should always take our own precautions when driving in the winter. You should take extra care in the roads, drive slowly and carefully when the weather is bad and make sure you have carried out basic maintenance on your vehicle. You should always: Check that your lights work and are clean Check the tyre pressure Check the oil level Make sure you have enough window cleaning solution, in case you have to drive on a dirty road Carry emergency provisions and warm clothes in case you break down .

By: Sophie Evans

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