Record Breaking Period for Breakdowns

AA rescues one third of a million drivers in cold spell

More than a third of a million drivers have been rescued by the AA

8 January 2010

More than one third of a million drivers have been rescued by the AA, the UK's biggest breakdown organisation, in the current cold spell.

In a winter that is being described as the worst in 30 years, the UK has seen temperatures plummet causing roads to grind to a halt, schools to close, planes at airports be grounded and more snowmen built in any period since 1981.

Since the snow started on the evening of Thursday 17th December, 2009, the AA has seen unprecedented levels of demand for its services and has dealt with nearly 340,000 breakdowns (338,000) – over double the normal amount for this period.

  • Between 18th and 24th December – 133,000 breakdowns
  • Christmas Day to 31st December – 92,000 breakdowns
  • New Year's Day to Thursday 7th January – 113,000 breakdowns

Record breaking days

The AA has seen at least four record-breaking days:

  • Busiest day for 10 years – Monday 21st December, 2009 with 22,000 breakdowns only to be broken two weeks later on Monday 4th January, 2010 – more than 25,000 breakdowns
  • Busiest overnight period in 25 years (midnight to 6am) – night of Monday 21st December – more than 1,000 breakdowns
  • Busiest Christmas Day for 20 years – more than 4,000 breakdowns (2,400 in 2008)

Causes of breakdown

Biggest causes of breakdowns during this time:

  • Battery faults – by far the biggest single cause with over 90,000 breakdowns
  • Tyres – second main culprit with more than 35,000 breakdowns
  • Stuck in snow – nearly 4,400
  • Wipers (e.g. not working, stuck on windscreen) – nearly 4,000
  • Out of fuel – nearly 3,000


AA Insurance has also seen snow and ice related claims increase by over 40% during this time.

Emergency measures

To cope with this increased demand, the AA has:

  • Deployed additional patrols to the worst affected areas and more call centre staff to handle calls for assistance
  • Made additional payments to staff working extra hours
  • Utilised 4x4s to ferry call centre staff to and from work to enable them to get in
  • Had Managers making sandwiches and food in call centres where restaurant staff have been unable to get in
  • Deployed its fleet of snow-busting Land Rovers to the worst affected areas to help rescue stranded motorists – around 2,500 man hours have been spent rescuing members by this team alone
  • Borrowed extra Land Rovers
  • Prioritised most vulnerable members stuck on busy motorways, dangerous roads, or those alone, elderly or with children
  • Campaigned national and local government to increase salting and gritting of key roads and pavements
  • Helped rescue injured elderly pedestrians and used Land Rovers to help hospital staff obtain vital supplies and visit sick patients
  • Staff have cancelled annual leave over Christmas and New Year to help provide service to members


Edmund King, AA president, says: "In our entire history we have never been as busy as we have been over the last few weeks. Our call centre staff and patrols have been working flat out. We have managed to deal with more than one third of a million call-outs in just a few weeks despite the horrendous conditions. Some patrols have been stuck in the city gridlock or unable to leave or join motorways due to treacherous ice and snow. Our patrols and staff are true unsung heroes.

"Due to the massive demand and atrocious conditions, our award winning service team has prioritised those members in dangerous, freezing or vulnerable locations above those safer at home. We hope that our members will be understanding and we guarantee that we will do our best to help our members. Due to the dangers on the roads, which have led to several tragic deaths, we will continue to prioritise those members most at risk."

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8 January 2010