Breakdown update

Snow and ice will give way to heavy rain, flooding and potholes

Snow and ice will give way to heavy rain, flooding and potholes as the latest hazards facing drivers

Snow and ice will give way to heavy rain, flooding and potholes as the latest hazards facing drivers

Snow and ice will give way to heavy rain, flooding and potholes as the latest hazards facing drivers, says the AA.

Given the recent weather, some drivers may joke that the only thing that could make the roads any worse would be a plague of locusts! Unfortunately, this cold snap followed the second wettest year on record so, quite understandably, the roads are showing some ill-effects with a ‘pothole storm’ on the horizon.

As the snow melts, the temptation is to drive that bit faster but you need to keep a look out for potholes and other hazards like flooding. Keep your speed down – particularly in rural areas where potholes are more likely – and take extra care in the rain as you don’t know whether it’s a puddle or pothole up ahead.

Report potholes

We urge drivers to do a good deed and report potholes so councils can fix them and others don’t hit them – there are local authority helplines and online reporting systems available for this.

Over the weekend, ice will continue to be a risk in places, particularly on sheltered stretches and higher ground, and snow melt is likely to cause some localised flooding

Darron Burness, AA Head of Special Operation

Further snowfall

Darron Burness, the AA’s Head of Special Operations, says: “If Friday afternoon’s expected snowfall comes in quickly enough it will cause problems in the affected areas during the evening’s rush-hour, so keep an eye on the forecasts and plan accordingly. Try to stick to main roads where possible, which may mean overriding the instructions from your sat-nav.

“Over the weekend, ice will continue to be a risk in places, particularly on sheltered stretches and higher ground, and snow melt is likely to cause some localised flooding so take care and stay out of flood water.”

Friday 25 January

(as at 14:00)

So far today the AA has attended around 8,200 call-outs, including 46 cars stuck in snow, which is likely to significantly increase as the snow comes in.

By the end of the day, the AA expects to attend more than 13,000 breakdowns, compared to around 9,500 on an average Friday.

Breakdowns are currently coming in at more than 1,000 every hour and the busiest areas are South Wales, parts of the West Country and London.


Thursday 24 January

(as at14:00)

So far today the AA has attended around 9,000 call-outs, including 80 cars stuck in snow, likely to exceed 14,000 for the day, compared to around 9,500 on an average Thursday. Breakdowns are currently coming in at around 1,000 every hour (peaking at around 1,500) and the busiest areas are London, Home Counties, Nottingham, Liverpool and Sheffield.

  • Travel disruption expected tomorrow as final snowfall forecast for parts of Scotland, northern England and the Midlands
  • AA expecting to attend more than 14,000 call-outs today, peaking at around 1,500 every hour
  • AA reminds drivers not to be a slave to the sat-nav after rescuing dozens who got stuck

It looks likely that the current cold spell will go out with a bang tomorrow with up to 10 centimetres of snow in places

Darron Burness, AA Head of Special Operation

Darron Burness, the AA’s Head of Special Operations, says: “It looks likely that the current cold spell will go out with a bang tomorrow with up to 10 centimetres of snow in places.

“It’s difficult for forecasters to know the extent of the snowfall, so check the local weather and traffic reports before heading out and be prepared for possible disruption.

Take extra care, particularly on higher ground, and allow extra time for your journey.”

Driving blindly

Darron Burness says: “A number of the people we rescued over the last few days got stuck after blindly following their sat-nav, where common sense would have dictated otherwise. Many even admitted that if it wasn’t for the device, they would have taken a different route, so whether it’s snow, ice or flooding, don’t be a slave to the sat-nav – engage your brain as well as gear!

“Use a road atlas to sense-check your route before departing and, if local conditions are bad, stick to the main roads where possible.”


Wednesday 23 January

(as at 13:30)

Despite a slight thaw in some places, snow and ice continue to cause problems on the roads, reports the AA.

We have attended more than 160,000 breakdowns over the current wintry period  (since 11 January). This includes around 2,200 vehicles stuck in snow or ice. Cars failing to start accounted for 45% of breakdowns and punctures around 10%.

  • Breakdown workload starting to ease off but snow and ice continue to cause problems
  • AA expecting to attend up to 14,000 call-outs today, currently around 1,100 every hour
  • Cars failing to start accounted for 45% of breakdowns and punctures around 10%
  • AA reminds drivers to use headlights in gloomy, winter conditions

Pretty tough conditions

Breakdown workload has started to ease off this morning but remains busier than normal with the AA expecting to attend up to 14,000 breakdowns nationwide today, compared to around 9,500 on an average Wednesday.

So far today (as at 13:30), it has attended around 7,500 call-outs, including 116 cars stuck in snow. Breakdowns are currently coming in at around 1,100 every hour (peaking earlier at around 1,500) and the busiest areas are the Home Counties, London and south coast.

With some very low overnight temperatures expected tonight and tomorrow, allow a bit more time to defrost your car

Darron Burness, AA Head of Special Operations

Darron Burness, the AA’s Head of Special Operations, says: “Our patrols have worked very hard over the last fortnight or so in pretty tough conditions attending more than 160,000 call-outs.

"The cold puts quite a strain on the car, so unsurprisingly almost half of call-outs were to cars failing to start due to a flat battery or other reason. Punctures accounted for around one-in-ten breakdowns and this is likely to be an increasing problem over the coming weeks as more potholes open up. We've also had quite a few clutch-related issues, possibly due to them slipping excessively while drivers attempt to get out of snow; and, despite the cold, overheating was an issue for hundreds of drivers after getting stuck in traffic for so long.

"With some very low overnight temperatures expected tonight and tomorrow, allow a bit more time to defrost your car. Wiper blades often freeze to the screen, which can result in a blown fuse, so remember to free them using de-icer. Also carry some spare concentrated screenwash and keep it topped up."

Dirty roads, dirty cars, dirty lights

AA patrols report seeing many people driving cars without lights in gloomy wintry conditions. The AA is encouraging all road users to 'see and be seen' and reminds drivers that the Highway Code says headlights must be used when visibility is seriously reduced – generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet) or the length of a football pitch.

Darron Burness, the AA's Head of Special Operations, says: "If the weather's bad or it's gloomy, it's important to use your lights so you can be seen more clearly. Winter grime seriously reduces their effectiveness so keep them clean and clear of snow. While you're at it, check for any blown bulbs and also clean your windows, mirrors and registration plates."


Tuesday 22 January

(as at 14:30)

  • Ongoing difficult driving conditions with snow, ice and hail
  • Ice biggest risk over coming days as ground takes longer to thaw out
  • AA expecting to attend up to 17,000 call-outs today
  • AA Insurance reports more than half (52%) of all car insurance claims today snow and ice-related

The weather has brought hardly any respite for the nation’s drivers with further snow, ice and hail causing problems across the country, says the AA.

Breakdown workload remains high due to the cold with the AA attending around 11,400 breakdowns nationwide on Tuesday (as at 14:30), including 176 cars stuck in snow. Breakdowns are currently coming in at around 1,100 every hour and the busiest areas are London, southern Home Counties and the Manchester area. By the end of the day, the AA expects to attend up to 17,000 call-outs in total, compared to around 9,500 on an average Tuesday.

Freezing conditions continue till the weekend

Darron Burness, the AA's Head of Special Operations, says: "At the moment, freezing conditions look set to continue till the weekend, so ice is going to be the biggest ongoing hazard over the next few days. Even if your car’s thermometer shows the air temperature above freezing, bear in mind that the ground takes longer to thaw out, so ice is still a risk.

"This is what happened in the South-west this morning, which got hit by a dangerous cocktail of rain, sleet and hail. The rain washed away some of the salt on the roads, so the hail then froze, creating treacherous sheet ice and causing a spate of accidents.

It's all easier said than done, so keep your speed down and try to keep plenty of space around you at all times.

Darron Burness, AA Head of Special Operations

"On snow and ice, the key is to drive smoothly, avoiding hard acceleration, braking and steering movements. Try to stay in the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin. If your car skids, only hit the brakes if you have anti-lock brakes. If you don't have anti-lock brakes, try to regain control by lifting off the pedals and depressing the clutch to help the wheels regain traction. It's easier said than done, so keep your speed down and try to keep plenty of space around you at all times.

If you're on a hill, try to avoid having to stop part way up by waiting till it's clear of other cars or by leaving plenty of room to the car in front. Keep a constant speed and choose the most suitable gear well in advance to avoid having to change down on the hill. Likewise, if you’re going downhill, reduce your speed before the hill, use a low gear and try to avoid using the brakes.

"Wherever you’re travelling this week, stick to the gritted main roads where possible and keep tuned to local radio for the traffic and weather reports."


Monday 21 January

(as at 12:00)

  • One of the busiest days for breakdowns so far this winter with the AA expecting to attend more than 17,000 call-outs
  • Big increase in flat batteries after many cars left idle since Thursday
  • Problems after cars left entombed in snow and ice
  • Hazardous commute with many side roads reportedly like ice rinks
  • AA reminds drivers not to stay in vehicle in the event of a breakdown
  • AA Roadwatch traffic news had 700% increase in visits on Friday

Flat batteries and blocks of ice

Darron Burness, the AA’s Head of Special Operations, says: “Today is ‘flat battery day’ – we’ve seen huge numbers of people call us for assistance this morning after many cars were left unused since Thursday.

Many vehicles were like blocks of ice, entombed in snow, so we’ve had a lot of frozen door seals, locks, fuel filler caps and handbrake cables

Darron Burness, AA Head of Special Operations

“As well as flat batteries, a lot of people have struggled just to get in the car this morning. Many vehicles were like blocks of ice, entombed in snow, so we’ve had a lot of frozen door seals, locks, fuel filler caps and handbrake cables. Problems with windscreen wipers and wash systems are common too, as people forget to free the wiper blades, which often freeze to the screen, blowing a fuse."

If you haven’t used your car yet, try to brush off the snow and ice to prevent some of these problems from arising. Also, with flat batteries a real problem in these conditions, a trickle charger can be used to charge it.

With the outlook remaining cold for the rest of the week with the chance of further snow, stick to the main roads where possible and allow more time for your journey, as you don’t want to rush on icy roads. Regardless of how far you’re travelling, check the Met Office weather alerts and traffic reports before departing and make sure you’re prepared for any eventuality.

If the worst should happen and your car breaks down, don’t risk staying in the vehicle, regardless of how cold it is. With the roads potentially icy, there’s a greater risk of someone ploughing into your car. Unfortunately, over the weekend, an AA member in Ipswich ignored our safety advice and their car was subsequently struck. Thankfully, they emerged unscathed but it could have been very serious.

Also, one of our patrol vehicles was written off in Surrey after another car, a 4x4, went too fast round a bend and skidded into it on the ice. 4x4s are not invincible on ice, so we urge all drivers to take extra care on the roads.

It’s ‘snow’ joke

Over the weekend, the AA’s ‘snow-busting’ Land Rover team, AA Special Operations, went out to all manner of incidents as a result of the wintry conditions.

Darron Burness says: “The snow can also mask hidden hazards. Over the weekend, our Land Rovers helped a gentleman who got stuck on his snow-covered lawn after he couldn’t see where his drive was and someone else had to be freed in a car park after not knowing where the tarmac was!”


Friday 18 January

(as at 14:00)

  • ‘Snow day’ for many but significant problems on the roads due to weather
  • Potentially treacherous driving conditions across most areas over the weekend
  • Around 6,800 breakdowns nationwide so far today (as at 14:00), currently more than 900 every hour
  • AA Insurance reports a third of all car claims at present are weather-related

Breakdown workload was lower on Friday morning than the last few days as many people stayed at home, but those who ventured out faced considerable delays and difficult driving conditions across many areas.

Although fairly quiet first thing, as the snow moved across the country, the rate of calls from stranded drivers increased, currently around 900 every hour; and the AA’s ‘snow-busting’ Land Rover crews are hard at work rescuing those in the worst hit areas.

By 14:00, the AA had attended around 6,800 breakdowns nationwide, including 188 cars stuck in snow, and the busiest areas are the south coast, parts of the South-west, Midlands and London. By the end of the day, the AA expects to attend around 11,000 call-outs, compared to around 9,500 on an average Friday.

With many cars left sitting over the weekend, Monday is expected to see another sharp rise in the number of flat batteries.  Remember to switch off all the electrics, for example lights, blowers and heated windscreen, before starting the car. Dipping the clutch while starting also helps to take some of the load off the starter motor and, in turn, the battery.

there’s been a big impact on the roads as the snow fell so heavily with traffic crawling on many routes and we’ve had reports of journeys taking three or four times longer than usual

Darron Burness, AA Head of Special Operations

Darron Burness, the AA’s Head of Special Operations, says: “After such a busy week, today’s been a ‘snow day’ for millions with far fewer breakdowns. However, there’s been a big impact on the roads as the snow fell so heavily with traffic crawling on many routes and we’ve had reports of journeys taking three or four times longer than usual.

“With the snow compacting down and turning icy, we’re likely to see treacherous driving conditions this evening and throughout the weekend. Any fresh snow on top will just add to the problems.

“Many employers have adopted a flexible approach to allow staff to leave early but our patrols are still experiencing severe congestion in several urban areas.

“Regardless of how far you’re travelling, check the Met Office weather and travel updates before departing and make sure you’re prepared for any eventuality.”

Insurance update

AA Insurance had received 133 car insurance claims by 14:00 today of which 43% were snow and ice related - mostly where drivers have simply not allowed sufficient space between themselves and the car in front and have been unable to stop.  Other claims are slow-speed collisions with parked cars while several drivers have ended up hitting trees or falling into ditches.

Snow moving across the country on friday caused widespread disruption to traffic

Snow caused widespread disruption to traffic on Friday


Thursday 17 January
(as at 15:30)

The AA urged drivers to prepare for travel disruption on Friday with snow forecast across many areas.

  • Greatest risk of disruption in Wales, West Midlands, southern England and Northern Ireland
  • Potentially dangerous driving conditions in places with risk of drifting snow
  • Around 12,500 breakdowns nationwide so far today (as at 15:30), currently around 1,000 every hour
  • East coast of England busiest area for call-outs due to the cold conditions

Friday morning’s commute is likely to test man and machine with potentially challenging driving conditions across many areas

Darron Burness, AA Head of Special Operations

Comment

Darron Burness, the AA’s Head of Special Operations, says: “Friday morning’s commute is likely to test man and machine with potentially challenging driving conditions across many areas. If the snow comes in quickly, it will cause problems, particularly drifting snow.


Wednesday 16 January

(as at 12:00)

Winter started in earnest on Wednesday with thousands of cars failing to get off the drive this morning due to the widespread freezing conditions.

By the end of the day, the AA expects to attend around 17,000 call-outs, compared to around 9,500 on an average Wednesday – up to an 80% increase.

  • Widespread freezing temperatures overnight saw big jump in home-start call-outs with thousands of cars failing to get off the drive
  • Around 9,000 breakdowns nationwide so far today (as at 12:00) – up to 80 per cent busier – and peaking at 1,900 every hour
  • East coast from Newcastle to Southend-on-Sea worst hit area with severe conditions in East Anglia causing exceptional demand for assistance
  • Warning of drifting snow and blizzard-like conditions for end of the week

Last night around Norwich, our Land Rover crews reported widespread gridlock due to the weather with a 45-minute journey turning into a five-hour marathon. This just illustrates that when the weather turns, even local journeys can be seriously disrupted, so it’s vital that people are adequately prepared, no matter how short the journey.


Monday 14 January

(as at 13:00)

Drivers were warned to prepare for a potentially hazardous commute on Monday evening and Tuesday morning as snow turned to ice.  The AA's severe weather team, AA Special Operations was working across the country.

Busy day for breakdowns with cold weather causing jump in call-outs across the country

  • Around 9,000 breakdowns nationally so far today (as at 13:00), peaking at around 1,800 every hour, and 23 cars stuck in snow
  • As snow thaws during the day, widespread risk of ice this evening and tomorrow
  • AA Land Rovers rescuing those in trouble

AA weather blog

The AA’s severe weather team, AA Special Operations, has had a busy weekend and start to the week. They use modified Land Rovers and crews are trained in advanced 4x4 driving. The team works alongside expert meteorologist Matthew Hugo BSc FRMetS, who has a blog on winter weather.


25 January 2013