Winter road maintenance and road traffic accidents

During Winter, 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.

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. Both the Highways Agency and local councils aim 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 are 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 made. If the driver is injured and their vehicle is damaged then they are 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 are entitled to make a personal injury claim. You can get expert legal advice on the subject at or you can call on 0800 78 38 846, where one of our helpful advisors will provide you will all the information you need.

Avoiding accidents
Although we do rely on road maintenance 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



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*Where replacement vehicle costs can be recovered from the insurance company of the person who caused the accident. Where this person is untraceable or uninsured, or where there is a dispute over liability, a replacement vehicle cannot be provided.