During the icy winter seasons, UK roads can become incredibly slippery and dangerous and should always be used cautiously. Gritting is vital for your safety as a road user to prevent nasty crashes or tumbles on slippery roads and pavements.
Gritters are active every year to prevent dangerous driving conditions. However, you should always drive cautiously during winter as ice and snow can quickly reform on roads even after they have been gritted.
If you have been involved in an accident caused by ice or snow on an ungritted road or pavement, you could potentially qualify for a personal injury compensation claim.
It can get confusing to stay on top of things – there are a number of laws that govern the responsibilities of authorities and road gritting. It will help to know who is responsible for the specific road you are concerned with. It is also important to note that the highway authority and council are not responsible for all the roads and pavements in the UK.
In this guide, you will learn more about who is responsible for which roads and pavements and how to claim compensation for any injuries caused by the negligence of the council or other authorities who fail to grit roads and pavements.
Who is responsible for gritting roads?
You may see certain roads being gritted more actively than others; naturally, the amount of traffic and where the road is located will play a factor in the priority. With that in mind, less prominent roads are primarily the responsibility of local authorities, although members of the public can help clear snow and ice from pavements when necessary.
The three main bodies responsible for gritting the roads are National Highways (formerly Highways England), county councils, and private owners of businesses. Local UK councils are responsible for around 225,000 miles of road, so it is impossible for all of them to be gritted and ice-free. Gritting all roads would cost the council hundreds of millions of pounds.
The responsibility for gritting different types of roads is explained below:
- Major roads – Major roads such as motorways and major A roads are gritted by National Highways. They are responsible for gritting and maintaining the major roads to keep them safe for road users. The reason for the high priority of these roads is that they connect the country, and the access points are vital for the safety of road users due to higher speeds on these roads.
- Minor roads – Minor roads comprise smaller major roads, important B roads, and routes into emergency stations with higher tragic routes. These roads are among those with the highest priority, but the gritting and maintenance are carried out by your local authorities, such as councils and their sub-contractors. If you see any maintenance requirements needed on a minor road, you should inform your local council.
- Local Roads – Residential streets are usually not gritted unless selected by your council. The only smaller local roads in residential areas to get gritted would include roads close to schools, hospitals, and railway stations.
As we’ve illustrated, the relevant authorities should conduct the gritting of high-traffic roads. If you have been involved in an accident on a high priority, ungritted road, you should contact a personal injury lawyer for assistance, as you could be entitled to compensation.
You can find out which roads your local council will grit by using the Gov.uk website.
Who is responsible for gritting pavements?
Pavement gritting should be a priority depending on the specific location and conditions, as it poses a potential risk for pedestrians to slip and suffer significant injuries. The responsibility for gritting pavements on public roads typically falls on the relevant local authorities. However, you can see many public pavements gritted by private owners, especially business owners, for the protection of their workers, customers and the public in general.
Sometimes, local authorities will provide a grit bin for gritting roads and pavements near a school. With an eye on safety for both pedestrians and drivers, sub-contractors will also try to spread grit to the pavement when gritting a local or minor road.
When pavements are considered part of highways, they fall under the responsibility of councils. Councils are allowed to decide for themselves whether there are other routes that could be taken instead of gritting the pavement or whether the pavement gets used enough to merit gritting.
Who is responsible for gritting car parks?
Council car parks are gritted by the council. However, any business’ car park gritting and maintenance naturally fall under the responsibility of the business or landowner.
All businesses and landowners should consider gritting in icy conditions, as it could be a potential hazard to anyone accessing the premises. Failing to keep their premises safe could make them liable for a personal injury claim if somebody is injured due to a slip on ice.
When do roads and pavements need to be gritted?
Roads and pavements need to be gritted by the relevant local authorities, who have a duty of care towards the public. UK winters are often icy, and what better way to lose your footing than on a slippery surface. Whether it is a public area or a private property, landowners and local authorities must respect their duty of care towards the public by ensuring proper maintenance and gritting.
Businesses and local authorities need to keep a keen eye on the weather and should consider creating a winter risk assessment. This will illustrate when to grit roads and how often.
Can the council be liable for an accident if they don’t grit the roads?
If you have been injured in an accident due to an ungritted, icy, or snowy road, you may be eligible to claim compensation. The highway authority and council could be held liable if they are unable to prove that the road was recently gritted.
The determination of liability in such cases would likely depend on various factors, including the specific circumstances of the accident, the efforts made by the council to address the issue, and whether the council acted reasonably under the circumstances.
That said, Section 41(1A) of the Highways Act 1980 clearly states that a highway authority is under a duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice. This means that you, as a highway user, have the right to claim compensation, especially when you are in an accident where the highway authority is not maintaining roads in winter conditions. Section 150 expands on this by laying responsibility on the highway authority to clear snow from the highway if it is causing an obstruction.
How to claim for an accident caused by ice or snow?
For the best chances of a successful claim against the council or highway authority, you will need evidence that the roads were not maintained up to standard. Proving that an ungritted road was the reason behind your accident will bolster your case, and your personal injury solicitor can assist you when assessing your case.
Gather as much evidence as possible, and consider getting statements from eyewitnesses. Photos of the road and the accident scene are also vital to prove negligence on the part of the council.
It is also worth mentioning that if a pavement or road was cleared and you got injured by falling or slipping on the surface, ”common sense” and ”benefit of the doubt” will be considered by the authorities. There is no law against clearing pavements or public spaces.
To initiate a claim, contact a personal injury solicitor specialising in such cases. They can help you determine the strength of your claim, gather evidence, and negotiate with the council or highway authority on your behalf. In most instances, your solicitor may be able to reach a settlement without going to court. However, if necessary, they will represent you in court proceedings.
Keep in mind that there is a time limit for making personal injury claims. Generally, you have three years from the date of the accident to make a claim. It is advisable to consult a solicitor as soon as possible to avoid missing the deadline.
In conclusion, the responsibility for gritting roads and pavements in the UK is shared between different authorities and landowners. National Highways is responsible for major roads, while local councils are responsible for minor and local roads, as well as some pavements. Private landowners and businesses are responsible for gritting their own premises, including car parks.
If you have been injured in an accident due to an ungritted road or pavement, you may be entitled to claim compensation. Consult a personal injury solicitor to help you assess your case and gather evidence to support your claim.