Snow and Ice

Breakdown Update

AA Land Rovers have been operating in the worse affected areas

Traffic News over the Christmas period »

Christmas travel plans and advice »

Winter driving advice »


15:30 Thursday 23 December

So far, today has been quieter than expected.

  • 11,500 breakdowns have been handled so far today with calls currently at 1,300/hour
  • It's busy nationwide but particularly in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Northern Ireland
  • We're estimating a total for the day of 18,500-19,000 breakdowns

Although there will be a last-minute scrum at the shops tomorrow, we expect it to be quieter on the roads than today with much less commuter traffic. People prefer to travel during daylight hours, so after the peak at lunchtime, we expect traffic to tail off significantly from 3.00pm, making it easier for those who may have delayed their departure


10:30 Thursday 23 December

  • The AA has attended around 4,900 breakdowns so far today
  • Breakdown calls are currently coming in at around 1,600/hour
  • Edinburgh, Glasgow and London are the busiest areas

Calm before the storm?

This is busier than a normal Thursday but not (yet) quite as bad as expected.

We are still expecting traffic and breakdowns to increase from lunchtime along with an extended evening rush-hour.

Winter driving advice »


12:30 Wednesday 22 December

  • Breakdown workload is even busier today as getaway and shopping traffic builds to tomorrow's expected peak.
  • The AA has attended more than 8,700 breakdowns across the UK so far today
  • It's very busy across all areas of the country, particularly Scotland and the Midlands.
  • Breakdown calls peaked at more than 2,400/hour during this morning's rush-hour.
  • We expect to attend up to 21,000 call-outs today (compared to 9,500 on a normal Wednesday).

Widespread icy roads and freezing temperatures will continue to disrupt the Christmas getaway.

The Midlands, in particular, has taken a further hit of snow and being at the heart of the country, it's having a significant effect as many people travel to or pass through the region.

a high percentage of our calls has been for frozen windscreen washers Wherever you're heading, allow plenty of extra time, as the last thing you want to do is rush in these conditions.

Spend some time checking your car over, as up to half of all breakdowns could have been prevented and, as well as the Christmas presents, don't forget to carry all the essential winter kit, especially plenty of warm clothing and a fully-charged mobile.

Frozen screen wash

Over the last few weeks, a high percentage of our calls has been for frozen windscreen washers. We hear stories of people using soapy water or very diluted washer fluid.

We recommend using neat windscreen wash to stop it freezing – some are good down to around minus 25 – and keep it regularly topped up, as you get through a lot even on short journeys.

If anything, the roads will get even filthier when the snow thaws.

As well as keeping the windscreen clean, you also need to wipe down the other windows, door mirrors, lights and number plates as they get caked in grime too.

Winter driving advice »

Traffic News »

Christmas travel plans and advice »

winter essentials from the AA shop


12:30 Tuesday 21 December

We have dealt with around 8,000 breakdowns so far today - breakdown calls peaked at more than 2,000/hour during this morning's rush hour.

Yesterday (Monday) was the busiest day ever in the AA's 105-year history with just over 28,000 breakdowns.

We expect to see today's total reach around 19,000 breakdowns - considerably quieter than yesterday but still more than twice the volume of breakdowns (9,500) on a normal Tuesday at this time of year.


Crisis of confidence on wintry roads?

AA Driving School instructors have reported a wide lack of confidence among road users and, at best, a lack of skill and in the worst cases driving that is plain reckless.

Drivers generally lack experience in handling icy conditions.

Passing your driving test doesn't prepare you for the conditions we are now seeing.

We believe there is a strong case for much wider post-test training to help motorists drive safely in a range of conditions.

During a recent lesson in London AA driving instructor Karen Parker's driving school car was narrowly missed by another car which skidded and spun 360 degrees on a dual-carriageway.

Karen said: "A few moments later a lady pulled out in front of us at over 35mph with only a metre's clearance from the front of my car. She then put her brakes on and skidded down the road bouncing from side to side between the kerbs. When she eventually came to a halt she then wheel spun off only to brake harshly causing another skid. Drivers like that are a danger to themselves and others."


17:00 Monday 20 December

Today is the busiest day ever in the AA's 105-year history

  • two days' worth of breakdowns by mid-afternoon
  • around 3,000 breakdowns every hour – TRIPLE the normal morning peak volume
  • we expect to attend attend around 28,000 call-outs in total today(compared to 10,500 on a normal Monday)
  • The AA's current busiest day on record (more than 25,000) was set on 4 January 2010

Snow, ice and widespread freezing daytime temperatures have been causing severe problems in many areas and drivers are being urged to avoid unnecessary travel.

Edmund King, AA President, says: "The compacted snow, which has turned to ice, is causing major problems. We need to see more snow ploughs out in some areas to break up the snow before it turns into an ice rink.

"Farmers and builders with tractors and diggers should be mobilised to help out. Drivers should try to stick to main roads and not over rely on sat-navs, which can take you on an icy road to nowhere.

The AA is urging drivers to follow local police advice and weigh up carefully whether your journey is essential. Even if conditions look passable where you are, the weather is quite unpredictable, so you have to prepare for any eventuality.

With further severe overnight temperatures forecast, drivers on Tuesday morning will need to exercise extreme caution as road salt is ineffective at those sorts of temperatures.

school closures and local services updates »


10:30 Monday 20 December

Breakdown call volumes today are completely unprecedented and off-the-scale.

  • we have handled around 8,500 breakdowns nationally so far today
  • In these unprecedented circumstances priority is being given to those at the roadside

Paul Watters, the AA's Head of Roads Policy, says: "Today will be the day that will break all records for the AA as the severe weather generates unprecedented demand for our services. Our patrols report that roads are treacherous across the country, so even getting to the main road is 'Mission Impossible' for many.


Road salt starts to lose its effectiveness from minus five and is pretty much ineffective at minus nine. During this morning's commute, we had reported temperatures as low as minus fifteen.

Lack of gritting?

There have been a lot of reports that grit supplies are being rationed but while most local authorities claim to have enough in reserve, they will be crossing their fingers that we have a respite, so they can restock.


12:00 Friday 17 December

We have now dealt with 7,500 breakdowns today with calls coming in at around 1,400/hour.

The major hotspots are the same as they were earlier this morning but with the addition of Kent.

We anticipate dealing with a total of around 18,500 breakdowns today.

09:30 Friday 17 December

The AA has dealt with around 3,000 breakdowns nationally so far today with calls currently coming in at around 1,500/hour

It is busy nationwide with ice and freezing temperatures causing problems – especially in the northern half of the country, northern home counties, London and South Wales.

Northern and North-east Scotland are particularly bad with atrocious conditions: driving, drifting snow and lots of ice.

Grampian Police have been advising against ALL travel

Weather will undoubtedly cause disruption for people heading off for an early Christmas break, if they live in an affected area.

The closer we get to Christmas, the greater the pressure on people to travel – Christmas shopping, visiting family and friends and we still have a week of Christmas parties to go – but we just recommend that people try to be flexible and willing to adapt their travel plans at short notice.

Christmas travel plans and advice »

Traffic News »

Winter driving advice »


15:00 Thursday 9 December

Breakdown workload has remained high today with further freezing overnight temperatures and black ice causing problems for drivers.

AA patrol Keith Davies helped Santa get to New Alresford last night The black ice that has caused so many problems in North-west England and Scotland this morning shows that drivers still need to exercise caution, even as temperatures creep up.

Although the air temperature might be a few degrees above freezing, the ground takes longer to thaw out.

On some roads there's still a lot of snow and compacted ice to contend with too, which will take a while to melt away.

Driver's must still heed police advice about whether it's safe to travel. Keep your speed down and always bear in mind the risk of ice, especially when temperatures drop after dark.

One in four call outs are for flat batteries but another common problem in this weather is that cars get caked in grime, so even on short journeys you get through a lot of windscreen wash. The heat from the engine normally thaws out the washer nozzles but we recommend using neat windscreen wash to stop it freezing – some are good down to around minus 25.

If it's too diluted screenwash either freezes solid, so it blocks the washer jets, or freezes on the windscreen while you are driving.

Breakdown update

  • The AA has attended around 12,800 breakdowns across the UK so far today with calls peaking at more than 2,000 every hour this morning – around twice the normal rate.
  • We expect to attend around 20,000 call-outs nationally by the end of the day.
  • It is still busy nationwide but particularly in the Glasgow area. Other hotspots are Edinburgh, North-east England, and the East Midlands.
  • Extra AA patrols are working in Central Scotland to help motorists get back on the road.

And finally

AA patrol Keith Davies received an unusual call-out last night when he had to recover Santa and sleigh on his flat-bed truck to a Christmas event in New Alresford, Hampshire.

Santa arrives in New Alresford on an AA Recovery truck »


16:30 Wednesday 8 December

Although the southern half of the country has enjoyed some respite today, another bitterly cold night across many areas has seen breakdown levels remain at more than double the norm, despite many people in the worst affected areas not travelling, says the AA.

Darron Burness, Head of AA Special Operations, says: "Conditions are still very difficult in many areas and our patrols are not immune either. One of our 'snow busting' Land Rover crews spent the night on the M74 going pretty much nowhere due to the gridlocked traffic – it took them nine hours to travel 17 miles to Cumbernauld. However, such was their determination to 'do their bit' that despite having only slept for a few hours in the Land Rover and hotel, they still volunteered to be up and about this morning.

"Another of our crews in Yorkshire has rescued drivers who have blindly followed their sat-navs and got stuck. Minor roads especially are still very treacherous in many places, so navigate with your head and stick to the main roads for as much as possible."

Breakdown update

  • The AA has attended around 15,000 breakdowns across the UK so far today with calls peaking at more than 2,000 every hour this morning – around twice the normal rate.
  • By the end of the day, the AA expects to attend around 21,000 call-outs nationally, compared to around 9,500 on a normal Wednesday.
  • Further freezing temperatures and ice have caused problems across the country but current hotspots are same as yesterday: Central Scotland, North-east England, and East Midlands.
  • Since the first widespread snow, the AA has attended more than 250,000 breakdowns – a 96% increase compared to normal.

Last Thursday when people were trapped in their cars overnight the AA called for the Army to be more involved in rescue efforts. We are pleased that the authorities in Scotland have begun to use the Army to help transport hospital patients and to clear frozen roads. We know that AA patrols are showing 'true grit' working flat out to help thousands of drivers every day across the UK.


10:00 Wednesday 8 December

So far today has been slightly less busy overall than yesterday with 5,500 breakdowns attended so far and a peak rate of 1,900 calls/hour during this morning's rush hour.

Glasgow, Edinburgh and North-east England remain the worse affected areas though workload is up everywhere.

AA Insurance has been analysing recent insurance claims - there has been a 23% increase in claims due to the recent snow and ice.

Some accidents seem to be just bad luck. One customer left his parked car only to find that it had slid down a steep hill into a fence. Another started to reverse her car out of her drive and skidded into the path of an oncoming snow plough, while two others returned to their cars to find that snow ploughs had wrecked them.

23% increase in insurance claims as a result of snow and ice »


15:00 Tuesday 7 December

The AA has attended around 13,500 breakdowns across the UK so far today with calls peaking at around 2,500 every hour this morning – around two and a half times the normal rate.

By the end of the day, the AA expects to attend up to 22,000 call-outs nationally, compared to around 9,500 on a normal Tuesday.

Self-service salting

Many residential roads and pavements across the UK are still affected by treacherous icy conditions, according to the AA.

The UK will need extra salt supplies imported from abroad to see out the winter, but if local highway authorities cannot keep key residential roads safe then they should provide residents with the resources to help themselves.

Edmund King, AA president, comments: "We have been contacted by people who would be willing to grit their own pavements or local residential roads if the grit was readily available to them. It has been reported that families fed up with icy roads are being told by Transport Secretary Philip Hammond to 'grit them yourself'. If local authorities could dump piles of salt at the end of residential roads that they are unable to salt, we believe many people would help to clear their own local roads and pavements."

"However, most local highway authorities probably will be reluctant to offer extra salt to the public. Local highway authorities were meant to have 12 days of salt supply and some areas have already experienced 10 days of freezing conditions so stocks will be low. Some authorities do provide local salt bins but others have removed the bins."


11:00 Tuesday 7 December

  • Yesterday (6 December) was one of the busiest days in the AA's history with around 24,000 breakdowns attended – up from 10,500 on a normal Monday.
  • The AA has attended around 7,700 breakdowns across the UK so far today with calls peaking at around 2,500 every hour this morning – around two and a half times the normal rate.
  • By the end of the day, the AA expects to attend up to 22,000 call-outs nationally, compared to around 9,500 on a normal Tuesday.
  • It is very busy nationwide due to the freezing conditions and ice but particularly in Central Scotland, North-east England, Leeds and Nottingham.
  • Since the first widespread snow, the AA has attended more than 230,000 breakdowns – a 93% increase compared to normal.

Follow police advice

The AA has attended more than 230,000 breakdowns since the widespread snow arrived this winter The AA is urging motorists to heed police advice and not venture out in areas where road conditions are treacherous. Edmund King, AA President, comments: "The weather in Scotland has been atrocious. We know that the emergency services, gritters, and breakdown providers have been working flat out to try to rescue stranded motorists.

"Last night the Army was called in to assist, as we had suggested last week. Drivers must also take responsibility for their actions and not venture out when conditions are atrocious. Those that have to travel must be prepared and have at least half a tank of fuel as this could be the difference between life and freezing to death if stranded for long periods. In sub-zero temperatures fuel is essential to keep the car warm."

There is more snowfall forecast today in Scotland, Cumbria and other parts of North-west England. Many other areas are still disrupted due to the existing snow and ice.

Winter driving advice »

Traffic News »


15:00 Monday 6 December

The AA is warning of treacherous road conditions continuing as temperatures remain very low in many areas with Scotland being particularly badly affected by further snow.

Breakdown update

  • Over the weekend the AA attended around 30,000 breakdowns – around double the normal number – and today has been even busier.
  • We have attended around 16,000 breakdowns across the UK so far today.
  • By the end of the day, the AA expects to attend around 24,000 call-outs nationally, which will make it one of our busiest days on record.
  • The busiest areas are Scotland, Newcastle, Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield.
  • Since the first widespread snow, the AA will have attended more than 230,000 breakdowns by this evening – 93% up on normal.

blocked roads make it hard for the gritters and emergency services to get through With lots of traffic on the roads, the snow quickly compacts and turns into thick ice. You could liken it to defrosting a freezer – you literally almost need to chip away the ice – so it means driving conditions will remain extremely hazardous for some time.

The situation is made doubly-difficult as blocked roads make it hard for the gritters and emergency services to get through. People really need to heed police advice about whether or not to travel

Darron Burness, Head of AA Special Operations, says: "We can't stress enough how difficult conditions are in Scotland – it really is taking a battering. The roads are unsafe in many areas and, unfortunately, many people are getting stuck, which makes it very difficult to get around. We are having to prioritise for people at the roadside in the worst-affected areas."

Paul Watters, Head of Road and Transport Policy at the AA, says: "We saw the 'perfect storm' during rush-hour in Scotland this morning. Heavy snow hit drivers at the busiest time on the busiest day of the week for travel. After so many were stuck at home last week, more people appear to have attempted to travel this morning but the weather was perhaps worse than anticipated."

Entombed in ice

Other areas of the country have been very busy too due to the very cold overnight temperatures, icy roads and freezing fog.

Darron Burness, Head of AA Special Operations, says: "Monday is our busiest weekday anyway so the return of the very cold weather couldn't have happened at a worse time. Our patrols report that they have attended lots of cars that have been left unused over the last week and, unsurprisingly, many have flat batteries. They really need a good run of 45 minutes to an hour to give them a boost, or a trickle-charge overnight."

"Give your battery a fighting chance by switching off all the electrics before you start it and dip the clutch as you turn the ignition. However, if your car is giving you persistent problems starting, get it checked out. If the battery is more than five years old, it's on borrowed time."

"We've also seen a lot of call-outs to cars with frozen doors or locks – several days sitting unused have turned some vehicles into blocks of ice."

Shunts and scrapes

AA Insurance has received a 23% increase in the number of car insurance claims last week compared with the week before due to a big jump in snow and ice collisions – 1,888 versus 1,453.

Accidents were mostly at low speed: tail-end shunts, running off the road and hitting inanimate objects or stationary cars. 'Popular' things to hit include kerbs (damaging the wheel and suspension); concrete posts in car parks; trees; lamp-posts and other cars.


11:00 Monday 6 December

Workloads over the weekend were around double our normal breakdown workload for this time of year. A lot of calls were to cars that had stood unused all week.

It's looking as if this Monday is going to be as busy for breakdowns as last Monday.

So far today we have dealt with 10,800 breakdown calls which at the peak of the rush hour were coming in at 2,900/hour.

The busiest areas today are Newcastle, Leeds and Scotland.

AA Land Rovers

Sam Jones writing for The Guardian spent some time with the AA's Special Operations Response Team as they battled the elements with shovels, winch and special socks in snowy Kent. Follow the link below to read his report.

In tow with the ice road rescuers »


15:00 Friday 3 December

We have attended around 14,000 breakdowns so far today and are now expecting Friday to be almost as busy as Monday.

We are now expecting to deal with more than 23,000 breadowns by the end of the day.

Calls are currently coming in at around 2,500/hour - even busier than this morning's rush hour.

Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Leeds, and Sheffield are the busiest areas but workload is high all over the country.


12:00 Friday 3 December

The AA has dealt with around 9,400 breakdowns so far today.

The Glasgow area, Leeds and NE England are particular hotspots but it is busy nationwide and we expect to attend more than 18,000 breakdowns by the end of the day.

Fuel supplies

The AA urges drivers not to be pushed into panic buying at petrol stations because of fuel shortages reported at some sites.

Experience from last winter shows that fuel buying in heavy snow came down to where drivers could get access to petrol stations: those beside busy roads had more drivers visiting because they were easier to get to. This meant that demand on those stations' fuel stocks were greater than usual, it didn't mean that fuel was running out across an area.

With schools closed, business in general reduced and people wary of heading out in bad weather, fuel consumption will drop as it did last year. This should give fuel suppliers leeway to keep towns stocked up. In rural areas, it may be more difficult to supply.

Although the AA advises drivers to try to reserve half a tank if they are setting off on roads where they may run into snow-bound or accident-snarled traffic, there is absolutely no need to panic buy.


09:30 Friday 3 December

Friday is normally the quietest day for breakdowns but so far this morning we have dealt with around 5,000 breakdowns nationally with calls coming it at 1,300/hour at the peak. This is considerably higher than yesterday's total at the same time.

Glasgow is currently the busiest area for breakdowns.


Winter 2010/11 breakdown updates - archive »


22 December 2010