AA Breakdown Update

Half a million breakdowns and counting as snow strikes again

The AA has attended more than half a million breakdowns in four weeks

Wednesday 20 January

Half a million breakdowns and counting as snow strikes again

With more snow falling across many areas today, the AA has announced that it has rescued more than half a million drivers since the snow first arrived on the evening of 17 December 2009. It has attended around 544,000 breakdowns – more than double its normal workload – making it the busiest winter ever for breakdowns in the AA's 105-year history.

  • 18 to 24 December: 133,000 breakdowns
  • Christmas Day to 31 December: 92,000 breakdowns
  • New Year's Day to 19 January: 319,000 breakdowns

As at 17:00 today:

  • The AA has attended more than 10,000 breakdowns since midnight across the UK so far today – less busy than yesterday, as many in snow-affected areas have left their car at home
  • The AA expects to attend around 14,000 breakdowns by the end of the day, compared to around 9,000 for the whole of a normal Wednesday
  • Breakdown calls are coming in at around 1,000 every hour

The AA's specialist snow-busting Land Rovers were kept busy in snow-affected areas particularly Birdlip Hill in Gloucestershire this morning. They will remain in Gloucestershire, and also travel to Yorkshire, as both counties have flood warnings in place.

Comment

Steve Dewey, AA road operations director, says: "Half a million breakdowns in just over four weeks is exceptional and we're still not clear of the unsettled weather. It's been consistently busy day-in, day-out for the last month, which is testament to the severity of the conditions that drivers have faced.

"We're still monitoring the forecasts closely and will continue to have extra patrols on duty to deliver the best possible service to our members. Drivers should continue to take care while driving, as they're still facing an unpredictable brew of rain, standing water, fog and ice on the roads."

Record breaking period for breakdowns »

Winter driving advice »

Winter breakdown advice/frozen engine warning »

Traffic news online and on the move from AA Roadwatch »

Snow and ice related insurance claims »

 

Tuesday, 19 January

Damaged engines the expensive legacy of severe winter

Breakdown workload has not yet subsided following the thaw – the AA attended more than 29,000 breakdowns over the weekend, and more than 19,000 breakdowns on Monday.

As at 13:00 today:

  • the AA has attended more than 8,000 breakdowns since midnight across the UK so far today
  • The AA expects to attend around 17,000 breakdowns by the end of the day, compared to around 9,000 for the whole of a normal Tuesday
  • Breakdowns are currently coming in at around 1,300 every hour
  • The South-east is currently the busiest area
  • Tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday are expected to be busy too as the heavy snow and rain forecast for many areas may cause travel disruption
  • Drivers shouldn't assume that the ground has thawed out even if the temperature gauge shows a few degrees above zero – there is a continued risk of ice

AA patrols are currently reporting problems with:


Potholes: damaging tyres, wheels, suspension and steering – for example, on Saturday, one AA patrol near Edinburgh did six back-to-back wheel changes after cars hit bad potholes on the M8.

Flat batteries: many cars are only now being used for the first time since the Big Freeze – they often won't start.

Overheated or damaged engines: the extremely low temperatures caused the coolant in many cars to freeze – a 'frozen engine'as a result of insufficient antifreeze (coolant is a mixture of water and antifreeze) – which can cause serious damage to the engine and its systems. The AA has had a huge increase in call-outs to cars damaged in this way, particularly among second cars. Unfortunately, the damage is potentially very expensive to repair and, in many cases, will result in the car being written off.

Comment

Stewart Topp, AA patrol of the year, says: "We're going out to a lot of cars that have been damaged following a frozen engine. Engines are fitted with 'core plugs' that give a little to allow a bit of expansion if the coolant freezes. Unfortunately, they're often in inaccessible areas, so the engine has to be stripped back to pop them back in. When the engine thaws, the coolant drains out, resulting in overheating and more damage, if the car's used.

"If the freezing has been more severe, the engine block can crack, which requires a new engine costing around £4,000 for an older car and typically £8,000 for a newer model. However, given the cost, many insurers will consider it uneconomic to repair and write the car off – a very costly mistake that could have been prevented by regular maintenance.

"If you're going to take a car out that hasn't been used over the winter, we'd recommend giving it a thorough all-round check-up, including the coolant – if the coolant level in the clear expansion tank has dropped, then you may have suffered a frozen engine. Try topping it up and if the water drains straight out, you know you're in trouble – don't start the car and get it checked out."

 

Friday, 15 January

Slippery roads still catching drivers out

As the thaw continues, many people will start using second cars that have been left sitting unused, especially rear-wheel drive cars that drivers haven't risked taking out.

To help prevent problems, the AA recommends owners give their car a thorough check-up: tyre pressure and condition; lights; and oil, coolant and windscreen wash levels. They should then get in and run the engine up to operating temperature – typically in around 10 minutes – before switching off.

As at 12 midday today:

  • The AA has attended more than 7,600 breakdowns (slightly more than the 7,400 attended by the same time yesterday) since midnight across the UK so far today
  • The AA expects to attend around 18,000 breakdowns by the end of the day, compared to around 9,000 for the whole of a normal Friday
  • Breakdown calls are currently coming in at around 1,300 every hour (less than the 1,600 every hour at the same time yesterday)
  • London and the South-east are the busiest areas but AA patrols are going out to 'stuck-on-ice' call-outs across the country

The AA is also warning drivers to be on the lookout for pedestrians walking on the road, as pavements are the last to thaw and snow is often pushed onto them after roads are snow ploughed.

 

Thursday 14 January

Breakdowns increase as temperature rises

Breakdown workload is up on yesterday as more people venture out following the start of the thaw with snow, slush and ice still affecting many roads.

Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, says: "We know that many people haven't driven at all since the cold weather hit but as conditions improve and their supplies run low, many will have no choice but to head out. These drivers won't have had the recent experience of driving in the conditions, so other motorists should be patient."

As at 12 midday:

  • The AA has attended more than 7,400 breakdowns since midnight across the UK so far today
  • The AA expects to attend up to 20,000 breakdowns by the end of the day, compared to around 9,000 for the whole of a normal Thursday and more than the 17,000 attended yesterday
  • Breakdowns currently coming in at around 1,600 every hour (greater than the 1,400 every hour at the same time yesterday)
  • It is busy generally across the whole country with Birmingham seeing the most 'stuck-in-snow' call-outs

Pothole damage

Stewart Topp, AA patrol of the year, says: "We're starting to see more call-outs to people with damaged tyres and wheels – some of this is down to pothole damage but we've also had cases where people partially deflated their tyres in the mistaken belief that it would give them more grip on the soft snow but then forgot to inflate them to normal pressure afterwards."

The AA would encourage drivers to check their tyre pressures, particularly if the car has been left sitting for a while, and to look for any signs of damage to the tyre and wheel – this is especially important if you have alloy wheels and low-profile tyres, as there is less cushioning effect with this type of tyre if you do hit a pot hole.

If you hit a pothole, the damage isn't always immediately obvious. Tyres won't necessarily puncture, so keep a look out for bulges in the side wall of the tyre, as this could potentially lead to a blowout later.

Potholes can also knock the wheels out of alignment, which would show itself later as uneven tyre wear or the steering wheel not centring correctly.

The AA is also expecting to see more call-outs to broken suspension coil springs over the coming weeks, as they can weaken due to corrosion and a severe jolt is sometimes enough to make them snap.

Record breaking period for breakdowns »

Winter driving advice »

Winter breakdown advice/frozen engine warning »

Traffic news online and on the move from AA Roadwatch »

Snow and ice related insurance claims »

 

Wednesday 13 January

Following a very busy morning, breakdown workload eased off more quickly than expected in the afternoon, as conditions improved.

As at 5pm today:

  • The AA has attended around 12,000 breakdowns since midnight across the UK so far today
  • The AA now expects to attend more than 17,000 breakdowns (lower than the 19,000 forecast earlier) by the end of the day, compared to around 9,000 for the whole of a normal Wednesday
  • Breakdowns calls are coming in at around 1,100 every hour
  • The busiest areas are currently South London, Pennines and the Peak District

Paul Watters, head of road and transport policy at the AA, says: "Drivers will welcome the thaw but they shouldn't drop their guard – what we're seeing now is a nasty combination of slow daytime thaw and night-time freeze leading to slippery driving conditions in the evening and early morning.

"The problem is being exacerbated by less salt being applied and wet roads diluting what little there is. It's important to bear in mind too that snow-covered side roads will remain below freezing even if the air temperature is above, so any rain landing on them will freeze.

"At the moment, it's best to assume that all roads are untreated and that any sign of moisture on the road is more likely to be ice.

"Then, as if that's not bad enough, drivers now have the risk of flooding and fog to contend with."

 

As at 12 noon today:

The overnight snow across the southern half of the country has caused a lot of problems for drivers this morning with the AA rescuing people stuck in snow in a huge swathe of land from Berwick-upon-Tweed to the south coast – compounded by the lack of salt and grit.

Last night, some of the AA's specialist snow-busting Land Rovers and other vehicles were working flat-out helping rescue some of the hundreds of motorists stuck near Exeter. They operated as part of the emergency response under the command of the police and one of the AA's vehicles was commandeered by the fire service.

  • The AA has attended around 7,000 breakdowns since midnight across the UK so far today
  • The AA expects to attend up to 19,000 breakdowns by the end of the day, compared to around 9,000 for the whole of a normal Wednesday
  • Breakdown calls are currently coming in at around 1,400 every hour
  • This morning has been very busy with lots of people getting stuck in snow across the country
  • Busiest areas are currently London and the south coast from Bournemouth to Brighton

Insurance update

By midday today 209 claims had been received by AA Insurance which is about 30 per cent higher than would normally be expected on a snow-free January Wednesday.

However, an unprecedented half of them were for snow and ice related claims, a high majority being collisions with other vehicles on ice.

Examples include even slight gradients where cars have gone out of control and at junctions, especially roundabouts, where vehicles have skidded into the path of other vehicles.

Customers returning to their parked or abandoned cars and finding they have suffered a collision, but with no note left by the third party, continue to represent around 20 per cent of claims.

In such cases, customers are unfortunately likely to lose some of their no-claim bonus. The AA is calling on drivers who do accidentally cause damage to other vehicles to 'come clean' and either make a note of the registration number and tell their insurer or leave their contact details on the car they have damaged.

Because most collisions are low-speed, damage is relatively minor. As a result, personal injury claims have fallen significantly compared with much higher-speed collisions on ice-free roads.

 

Tuesday 12 January

As at 5:30pm today

  • The AA has attended around 13,500 breakdowns since midnight across the UK so far today
  • The AA expects to attend around 17,000 breakdowns by the end of the day, compared to around 9,000 for the whole of a normal Tuesday
  • Breakdowns currently coming in at around 1,100 every hour
  • Busiest areas are currently South Wales, London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow

 

Monday 11 January

Hazardous driving conditions as authorities cut back on gritting

The AA attended more than 27,000 breakdowns over the weekend.

Today has started where last week left off with high breakdown workload nationally – despite the weather easing, local authorities have been told to cut gritting by 25 per cent, meaning many roads are still as treacherous after either getting treated less frequently or not at all.

The AA is calling for local authorities to:


- Ask more farmers with tractors to snow plough the roads

- Mix sand with salt to make it go further and provide more grip on roads

- Use parking attendants and other contractors to clear ice from footpaths, access to railway stations and town centres

- Be upfront about which roads are being gritted and to publish maps showing gritted areas in green and non-gritted areas in red


As at 2pm today:

  • The AA has attended around 14,000 breakdowns since midnight across the UK so far today
  • The AA expects to attend around 20,000 breakdowns by the end of the day, compared to around 9,500 for the whole of a normal Monday
  • Breakdowns calls are currently coming in at around 2,100 every hour
  • The busiest areas are currently Leeds and West Yorkshire, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London
  • Following further extremely cold weather in Scotland over the weekend, the AA has now attended around 170 breakdowns caused by waxing of diesel fuel since the start of the month

Stewart Topp, AA patrol of the year, says: "Drivers need to be careful not to get caught out by roads that are no longer gritted – it's best to assume that roads aren't and keep your speed down accordingly. If your car breaks down, make every effort to get over to the hard shoulder or verge, even if it's icy, as we're getting reports of people pulling up on the carriageway itself, which is very dangerous ordinarily but extremely so on slippery roads."

 

Friday 8 January


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

Gritting the hard shoulder

It is good to see that the Government is taking action over the problems on the road network. It is probably sensible and pragmatic to stop salting the hard-shoulder in order to preserve dwindling salt stocks although it will make life more difficult for AA patrols.

These measures indicate that we are running dangerously low on salt supplies and therefore we should crank up the efforts to import more salt as the UK suppliers cannot keep up with the demand.

If motorists get stuck on the hard-shoulder due to lack of salt then the AA believes that the statutory £150 removal charge should be waived.

We also believe that hard-shoulders on hills should still be gritted.

Spending more on imported salt will save the economy and health service millions of pounds. We estimate that traffic levels are down 60% in some areas which will have a dramatic impact on the economy.

Hospital admissions and insurance claims are escalating hence we must increase efforts to get extra salt to free up more essential roads and pavements in order to keep the country moving.

 

Thursday 7 January


A very busy day for breakdowns as ice wreaks havoc on the roads

There was a significant increase in the rate of breakdowns from 3pm this afternoon as drivers, worried about the state of the roads, left work early to get home in daylight.

It has been a particularly hazardous day on the roads with the very low temperatures leaving even main routes icy in places – salt is less effective from -5 degrees and barely effective at all from -9 degrees – and temperatures are set to fall further tonight with lows of -20 degrees forecast for Scotland.

As at 5pm today:

  • The AA has attended more than 16,000 breakdowns since midnight across the UK so far today
  • The AA expects to attend up to 20,000 breakdowns by the end of the day, compared to around 9,000 for the whole of a normal Thursday
  • Breakdowns are currently coming in at around 1,500 every hour
  • The busiest areas are Scotland, North-west England and the Midlands

 

With more people attempting to get into work this morning, it's been very busy for breakdowns with numerous motorists getting into difficulty on the icy roads. Conditions are expected to remain treacherous in most areas of the country – drivers should not be lulled into a false sense of security by the break in the heavy snow – ice is far more dangerous to drive on than snow.

Edmund King, AA president, comments: "Many roads today are like ice rinks as the heavy snow compacts into sheet ice. With dwindling salt supplies in some areas, we are concerned that smaller quantities of salt on fewer roads will be utilised. Highway authorities should inform the public which routes are being salted so that drivers can try to stick to the safer roads where possible. We hope that the break in heavy snow falling does not lull drivers into a false sense of security as many roads are still treacherous."

When driving on icy roads, the AA advises motorists to minimise the use of brakes to reduce the risk of sliding: keep your speed down; stay in a higher gear to aid traction; read the road ahead; anticipate hazards; and keep well apart from other vehicles.

The AA is advising drivers to check local traffic and weather reports before departing and to heed any police advice about whether or not to travel.

As at 12:30pm today

  • The AA has attended around 11,000 breakdowns since midnight across the UK so far today
  • The AA expects to attend up to 20,000 breakdowns by the end of the day, compared to around 9,000 for the whole of a normal Thursday
  • Breakdown calls are currently coming in at around 2,000 every hour
  • We are very busy nationwide due to the weather and eastern areas are expected to be even worse later with forecasts of more snow

More advice for drivers


Motorists who haven't been able to use their car so far this week are being advised to sit in it and run the engine up to operating temperature – typically in around 10 minutes – before switching off, to help prevent problems.

The AA is seeing a substantial increase in the number of call-outs to people getting locked out of their car – they leave the engine running while clearing the windows but many modern cars have an automatic locking system, which is catching out drivers.

AA patrols report that many drivers are struggling to get their car doors open – try all the doors and if you can get in via any one, it's normally easier to open the others by pushing from the inside than by pulling on the outside handle. To reduce the risk of it happening again, a useful tip is to smear a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the door seals, once they have been released. The AA also recommends squirting some WD40 into the door locks (including the fuel cap lock) to disperse any water, reducing the risk of a frozen door lock – warm water is not recommended, as it will just freeze inside the lock and on the ground, creating a slippery hazard!

To reduce the build-up of condensation inside the vehicle, another AA tip is to keep the interior of the car dry by removing damp rags, snow-covered wellies and clothing items from the car overnight.

The AA also recommends that people periodically clear the snow off cars that have been left sitting – this prevents ice building up, which is much harder to clear, and reduces the risk of frozen door locks and door seals.

It is also very important that drivers clear all the snow off the top of their car, as when the snow melts a little and the driver brakes or is going downhill, the snow will suddenly slide over the windscreen. This is highly dangerous as the driver will not be able to see anything and the wipers may not be able to clear a large quantity of snow quickly, if at all.


 

Wednesday 6 January


Drivers will be skating on thin ice this evening as roads freeze

Roads in the snow-affected areas are likely to be treacherous this evening as the snow compacts down and turns icy. Breakdown workload has remained stable but tomorrow (thursday) is expected to be very busy as more people attempt to get into work.

When driving on icy roads, the AA advises motorists to try to minimise use of brakes to reduce the risk of sliding – keep your speed down; stay in a higher gear to aid traction; read the road ahead; anticipate hazards; and keep well apart from other vehicles.

The AA is advising drivers to check local traffic and weather reports before departing and to heed any police advice about whether or not to travel.

As at 5pm today:

  • The AA has attended around 12,000 breakdowns since midnight across the UK so far today
  • The AA now expects to attend around 16,000 breakdowns by the end of the day, compared to around 9,000 for the whole of a normal Wednesday
  • Breakdowns are currently coming in at around 1,100 every hour
  • The busiest areas currently are Glasgow, Newcastle, Norwich and eastern areas of Essex and London.
  • Roads are still treacherous in many areas, making it difficult to get around – last night, hundreds of motorists were stranded on the A3 and M27 in Hampshire as the carriageways had been gritted but not the off-ramps.
  • Motorists who haven't made it into work so far this week are being advised to sit in their car and run the engine up to operating temperature – typically in around 10 minutes – before switching off, to help prevent problems.
  • The AA also recommends that people periodically clear the snow off cars that have been left sitting – this prevents ice building up, which is much harder to clear, and reduces the risk of frozen door locks and door seals.

 

The snow that spread overnight to southern and westerly areas has caused big problems for some of the drivers who ventured out this morning with reports of cars getting stuck and coming to grief in the conditions.

Breakdown workload has been quieter today than recent days, as many people have opted to stay at home. It's still busier than normal though and is expected to pick up this evening as the snow in affected areas compacts down and turns icy.

The AA is advising drivers to check local traffic and weather reports before departing and to heed any police advice about whether or not to travel.

Many minor and major roads across the UK are in a treacherous state today. We urge drivers to take extra care and to heed police warnings about whether they should take to the roads or not. If drivers do venture out then they should be well prepared and expect the un-expected. Drivers should clear all snow from their car before travelling and take a spade, blanket, coat, boots, piece of cardboard or carpet, food, drink, charged mobile phone and a full tank of fuel.

As at 12:30pm today:

  • The AA has attended more than 7,000 breakdowns since midnight across the UK so far today
  • The AA expects to attend around 15,000 breakdowns by the end of the day, compared to around 9,000 for the whole of a normal Wednesday
  • Breakdowns are currently coming in at around 1,100 every hour
  • The busiest areas currently are Manchester, Liverpool, Warrington, Cheshire, Newcastle, West Midlands, Bristol, Gloucestershire, South-west, South Wales, East Sussex, London, Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire
  • Over the last few days, the AA has received several reports of blocks of ice and snow flying off the back of lorries, so advises drivers to be particularly cautious when approaching an HGV from behind and to leave a bigger gap;

Very low temperatures

With temperatures of minus 20 degrees forecast for Scotland, AA patrols report problems with diesel fuel solidifying – turning waxy – in very low temperatures, made worse by the wind chill making it much colder

To help prevent problems, the AA advice is to garage the car, park it out of strong winds or make arrangements with a local warehouse or similar if no garage is available. The vehicle needs to be fully warmed up before setting off and drivers should not apply direct heat to warm it up – if wax has formed, the wax crystals have to melt at room temperature.

Salt supplies

With the prolonged and severe conditions it's not surprising that the salt supply chain is creaking. There are only two salt mines in England and one in Ireland. Approximately 50% of the supply comes from the Cheshire salt mine which produces 30,000 tonnes per week.

One estimate says 30,000 tonnes is the amount used in one day under current conditions. However there are obviously logistical problems transporting salt from the snow-ridden roads in Cheshire around the country. One HGV can only transport approximately 30 tonnes of salt but restrictions on drivers' hours have been lifted. Some ordered supplies are not getting through due to the demand and logistical problems.

Although highway authorities have not run out, some are running very low and some are conserving supplies by using less salt and gritting fewer roads and pavements. Some councils are now mixing salt with grit to make the salt last which is understandable but it means it is less effective at thawing but it does give some grip and is better than sheet ice.

Car insurance update

Claims are about a third higher than on a normal January mid-week day but are running at a lower level than expected – probably because people are now not driving because of the severity of the snow.

A third (32.6%) of the 190 claims received by 12:30 today were snow and ice related.

We are getting a number of claims from car owners who have found their abandoned car damaged following collision from an unknown third party.

Four claims have been for abandoned cars being broken in to and contents stolen.

 

Tuesday 5 January

Following yesterday's record-breaking demand, breakdown workload has eased today as many people struggle to make it into work. However, this evening's commute is expected to be difficult, as temperatures plummet and the snow spreads south and west.

As at 1pm today

  • The AA has attended around 9,000 breakdowns since midnight across the UK so far today
  • The AA expects to attend around 16,000 breakdowns by the end of the day, compared to around 9,000 for the whole of a normal Tuesday
  • This is down from the 25,000 breakdowns attended yesterday (Monday) – the AA's busiest day ever
  • Breakdown calls are currently coming in at around 1,100 every hour
  • The busiest areas this morning were Manchester, Liverpool, Warrington, Leeds and Stoke
  • Scotland is busy, although quieter than expected on its return to work
  • The South and South-east are expected to bear the brunt this evening and tomorrow
 

Monday 4 January

The AA now expects Monday 4 January to be its busiest day ever for breakdowns with more than 25,000 breakdowns expected by the end of the day.

We are continuing to deploy extra patrols and have all of our specially-equipped Land Rovers working in the snow-affected areas. Priority is being given to drivers in the most vulnerable situations.

As at 2pm today:

  • The AA has attended around 18,000 breakdowns since midnight
  • The AA now expects to attend more than 25,000 breakdowns by the end of the day
  • The AA now expects today to be its busiest day ever for breakdowns
  • Prior to today, Monday 21 December 2009 was the busiest day in the last three weeks with around 22,000 breakdowns – the busiest day in ten years
  • Breakdowns are currently coming in at around 2,200 every hour – down from the peak of 4,000 every hour earlier this morning
  • There are no particular hotspots for breakdowns – it is exceptionally busy nationally
  • Scotland is now quieter than earlier but expected to bear the brunt tomorrow when Scots return to work

The roads are likely to be busier tomorrow (Tuesday) when worsening weather conditions combine with the return to school in many areas. With icy roads forecast across much of the country tomorrow, the AA is advising drivers to keep their speed down and leave at least a three-second gap between them and the car in front. Before departing, drivers should check local traffic and weather reports for their planned route and heed any police advice about whether or not to travel.

As at 8am today:

A fortnight of freezing temperatures has left thousands of cars stranded on drives with flat batteries and frozen engines and AA Patrols are reporting lots of accidents on slippery roads.

  • The AA has attended around 6,000 breakdowns since midnight across the UK so far today
  • The AA expects to attend more than 22,000 breakdowns by end of the day – around 2.5 times the 9,500 breakdowns attended on a normal Monday
  • Today is expected to be the busiest day of the last three weeks
  • At the peak this morning, breakdowns were coming in at around 4,000 every hour – four times the normal hourly rate
  • There are no particular hotspots for breakdowns – it is exceptionally busy nationally – Scotland included (despite it being a bank holiday there)

 

Christmas Eve

As at 12 noon today:

By the end of today (Christmas Eve) the AA expects to have attended over 130,000 breakdowns in total across the UK since Friday, 18 December 2009 - its busiest period in at least ten years.

Breakdowns are still coming in at more than double the normal rate across the UK. The AA is continuing to deploy extra patrols today and tomorrow.

Christmas Day, normally the quietest day of the year, is now expected to be busy. With conditions due to improve in many areas, some drivers are likely to delay their Christmas journeys until tomorrow morning.

Where possible, the AA is switching resources to worst-hit areas. Priority is being given to drivers in vulnerable situations.

If drivers can reasonably delay any non-essential trips until Christmas or Boxing Day the weather and traffic should be better.

  • The AA had attended around 6,500 breakdowns across the UK since midnight, more than double the normal volume
  • Snow and black ice continue to cause major problems across wide areas of the UK
  • Breakdowns are now coming in at around 1,400 per hour
  • The busiest areas for breakdowns are London and the South-east of England, and also Glasgow. West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester are also very busy
  • Drivers should be watchful for pedestrians slipping on pavements and roads
  • The AA estimates that up to 12 million, or 34 per cent, of drivers were planning to travel to family and friends for Christmas, many of these staggered over yesterday, today and on Christmas morning.

AA Car Insurance update

Yesterday saw 530 claims, of which 48% were snow and ice related - particularly accidents on black ice along the South Coast and in new snow in Scotland.

By midday today, 160 new claims had been received of which 43% were snow and ice related, suggesting the number of claims is going down as conditions improve in many areas.

As at 9am today:

With breakdowns still occurring at more than double the normal rate, the AA is continuing to deploy extra patrols and has switched some resources to worst-hit areas. Priority will be given to those drivers in vulnerable situations.

AA patrols have been described by Labour MP, Tom Watson, on Twitter as "untold heroes" of the snow.

  • AA patrols have attended around 2,500 breakdowns across the UK since midnight, around double the normal volume
  • Snow and black ice continue to cause severe problems across wide areas of the UK
  • Breakdowns are now coming in at around 1,300 per hour
  • Busiest areas for breakdowns are West Yorkshire (snow) and London and the South-east of England. Scotland has improved somewhat after yesterday's severe problems with heavy snow, however Glasgow and northern Scotland remain very busy
  • Drivers should be watchful for pedestrians slipping on pavements and roads
  • The AA estimates that up to 12 million, or 34 per cent, of drivers were planning to travel to family and friends for Christmas, many of these staggered over yesterday and today

Commenting on the state of the roads, AA President Edmund King says: "Extremely difficult travel conditions persist across many parts of the UK as millions of drivers who have not yet done so, travel to family and friends for Christmas. Many roads today are expected to be very busy and dangerous due to snow and black ice. If drivers can reasonably delay any non-essential trips until Christmas or Boxing Day the weather and traffic should be better."

 

Wednesday 23 December

Ice and snow causing major problems for the Christmas getaway

By the end of today (Wednesday), the AA expects to have attended around 116,000 breakdowns in total across the UK since Friday, 18 December 2009 – its busiest period in ten years.

As at 3pm today:

  • AA breakdown patrols have attended around 12,000 breakdowns since midnight across the UK
  • Icy conditions are expected to cause extremely difficult driving conditions this evening as temperatures drop, especially in areas where rain has washed the salt and grit away
  • The AA now expects to attend around 18,000 breakdowns by the end of the day - compared to around 8,500 on a normal Wednesday
  • Breakdown calls are still coming in at around 1,200 every hour
  • The busiest areas currently are Scotland, South-east, south coast, Lancashire, Merseyside, Pennines, South Wales and Devon

As at 9am today:

  • The AA has attended around 3,000 breakdowns between midnight and 9am Wednesday morning across the UK
  • Black ice is proving lethal in many areas, especially the south coast, and heavy snow is causing severe problems in Scotland – the AA is currently being called out to 50 cars stuck in snow in Scotland
  • The AA expects to attend around 16,000 breakdowns today – compared to around 8,500 on a normal Wednesday in December
  • Breakdowns are coming in at around 1,200 every hour
  • Today is likely to be the busiest day for the Christmas getaway but we are advising people to delay their departure till road conditions improve. People are being urged to only travel if necessary and be very cautious with unseen black ice causing spates of accidents
  • Drivers should be watchful for pedestrians slipping on pavements and roads too

The state of the roads

Commenting on the state of the roads today, AA President, Edmund King, said:

"We know that the gritters are now working flat out to try to counter the treacherous road conditions. Drivers are grateful for the work that the gritters are doing but must remain very cautious on many roads. We are getting reports of treacherous black ice and cars skidding from Scotland to Southampton. Today is likely to be one of the busiest days on the roads but we must stress that the safety of drivers must come before their quest to get to their Christmas destination quickly."


The AA estimates that up to 12 million, or 34 per cent, of drivers are still likely to attempt to travel to family and friends for Christmas, staggered over today and Christmas Eve.

 

Tuesday 22 December

Today has been another busy day but the worst is over – the breakdown workload is still very high but starting to ease off.

  • By 5pm today AA patrols had attended more than 15,000 breakdowns
  • We expect to attend around 18,000 breakdowns by the end of the day – compared to around 8,500 on a normal Tuesday
  • Breakdown calls are coming in at around 1,000 every hour

Roads are likely to be busy as people hit the roads after delaying departing for Christmas: up to 12 million, or 34 per cent, of drivers are expected to attempt to travel to family and friends for Christmas, staggered over tomorrow (Wednesday) and Christmas Eve.

The AA is starting to get reports of clampers targeting cars abandoned in the snow then making owners wait several hours to release them.

Stewart Topp, AA patrol of the year, says: "It's great that we seem to be over the worst of the chaos on the roads but that doesn't mean it's going to be a quiet Christmas getaway – there's still a lot of snow and ice around, so people will have to make a judgement as to whether it's safe for them to travel. It's important to consider the weather and traffic reports along the whole journey and, as we have seen the last few days, people shouldn't underestimate the conditions, so make sure you carry all the essentials in case of breakdown, accident or delay."

AA Insurance reported its second-busiest day this year with more than 600 accident claims. This is 40 per cent higher than on a normal December Monday. "Drivers are unused to driving in snow and ice. Once a car loses its grip it becomes very difficult to regain control," Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance says. "Fortunately most claims are not serious and the majority of claims are low-speed shunts, followed by out-of-control cars hitting parked or abandoned vehicles and collisions with roadside objects, such as lamp posts, road signs, curbs and bollards."

 

Monday night

Overnight was the AA's busiest night for breakdowns in 25 years

  • By 06:00, the AA had attended more than 1,000 breakdowns
  • At 08:00, around 6,500 breakdowns pending with breakdowns coming in at 700 every hour
  • The AA is prioritising service for those out on the road in vulnerable positions
  • The busiest area overnight was a triangle area from Basingstoke in the west, Oxford to the north and East London to the east
  • Many vehicles have been unable to get on or off major motorways including M4, M40 and M25 causing major paralysis effect
  • AA Patrols and emergency services vehicles were also struggling to get through ice, snow and abandoned cars, for example, some AA patrols in Basingstoke were stuck with other traffic for around five hours with nowhere to go and unable to get to breakdowns - this was a common experience throughout London and the South-east last night
  • AA Patrols who manage to get onto motorways are being restricted by weight of traffic and are not permitted to use the hard shoulder
  • The AA is based in Basingstoke, one of the worst affected areas, with around 30 staff sleeping overnight in the office
 

Monday 21 December

Following an exceptionally busy weekend, Monday was the AA's busiest day on the roads in ten years with record numbers of breakdowns.

By 15:00, AA Patrols had attended around 16,000 breakdowns – more than the 10,000 they normally attend for the whole of a Monday in December.

By 20:30 we had attended 20,000 breakdowns and they were still coming in at more than 1200 an hour.

Steve Dewey, AA Road Operations Director, says: "There has been an unprecedented demand on our services nationwide due to the weather, not just in any one particular region – falling just before Christmas, it's created a 'perfect storm' level of workload of the sort that only occurs say once every ten years.

"The difficulty is that with many roads grinding to a halt or impassable, it is taking us longer to get to members. We are also prioritising service for people in vulnerable positions on the road, over those at home.

"We are still getting a lot of calls from people in non-emergency situations, for example, if they can't get their car off the driveway, so we would ask people to be patient and only call us if they really need to.

"We have every available patrol on the road and have put in extra Land Rovers to rescue people in the extreme conditions. We also have extra staff manning our breakdown line."

Insurance claims

Monday 20th December could be the busiest day of 2009 for road accident claims as blizzard conditions swept many parts of the country.

By 17:30 the AA claims office in Cardiff had received over 500 claims, almost twice as many claims as would be expected on the whole of a normal winter Monday.

According to staff, the "phone hasn't stopped ringing and we're going absolutely flat-out with claim volumes increasing as the evening sets in as customers come to grief in the arctic conditions."

The busiest day of 2009 so far was on 2nd February when the last widespread snow fell. Then, just over 800 claims were taken.

Fortunately, most accidents are at a relatively slow speed so we're not getting reports of injuries. But an accident is always distressing and on ice can be very frightening. Our role first and foremost is to offer help, advice and a sympathetic ear – and help people decide on the next best course of action.

 

21 January 2010