More than half of drivers are struggling to pull out of their neighbourhoods as the cold weather bites and over 10% have been forced to abandon their cars due to a lack of suburban gritting from councils, a new survey suggests.
Motoring group the AA found that only 20% of its members can ‘drive straight on to a treated road when they set off’ while 11% had to abandon their cars and seek other transportation means.
The survey of more than 16,000 residents taken in December found 52% struggle to get out of their area onto gritted roads and 22% of pensioners give up driving completely during cold periods.
'One of the biggest winter gripes is the complaint that UK main roads are generally safe and useable in snow and ice – providing you can get on to them in one piece. Increasingly, when frost, ice and snow turn local roads treacherous, local authorities are leaving neighbourhoods to just get on with it themselves,' says Edmund King, the AA’s president.
'Not being able to get up slopes, sliding over the line at junctions, skidding into kerbs or other cars are some of the trials drivers face on their daily routine in snow and freezing conditions. Some councils have gone even further by turning off street lights late at night into the early morning - as if setting out for work on a winter’s morning isn’t hard enough.'
Councils have had to make extensive cut backs over this parliament, which in some areas has resulted in street lights being turned off and gritting routes being reduced.
The Local Government Association (LGA) - the umbrella body representing local authorities - highlights that after the latest financial settlement core funding from Government to councils over this Parliament has fallen by around 40%.
The AA survey also found the greatest difficulties were experienced in the North East and Northern Ireland where 56% of drivers struggled to get to a gritted route, followed by 55% in the East Midlands and South East. However in Scotland where the weather is often coldest, 27% said they could drive straight on to a treated road at the start of their journey with Londoners the next best served with 23%.
A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: 'Preparing for cold weather remains a top priority and that is why councils stockpiled 1.3 million tonnes of salt ahead of winter.
'Councils are responsible for hundreds of thousands of miles of road. It’s simply not feasible to grit everywhere and many roads are also simply too narrow or too steep for a gritting lorry to navigate. As a result, councils have to prioritise routes based on local community and economic needs.
'Keeping the country moving during extreme weather will always be a community effort. That is why local authorities fill thousands of grit bins, recruit volunteers to help people clear side streets when needed, liaise with parish councils and community groups to grit more residential or remote areas.'