It was an icy morning. The claimant was driving to work at the Council’s main depot. He turned off the main road down an access road into the works’ car park. The main road had been treated with salt and grit. The access road had not. His car lost control and he was injured.
A claim was brought under Section 41 (1A) of the Highways Act 1980 – the duty “so far as is reasonably practicable (to ensure) that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice”.
The defendants said they had a reasonable system. They had gritted all primary roads in the area. This short access road was a secondary road and they had not started treating them yet.
The Code of Practice for Maintenance Management, “Delivering best value in Highway Maintenance”, revised in 2005, gives detailed recommendations for when roads should be treated before ice falls and how much salt should be used and what systems should be used, but acknowledges that economic resources to cover all possible areas with ice and snow is just not possible.
There is a lot of emphasis on receiving and heeding forecasts, so you can prioritise roads, having vehicles and salt to hand and in having the right quantify of salt spread on the road depending on whether it had been kept in an open condition or covered.
The Judge accepted the council had a policy. However, no work had been done to grit roads between 5.15am, when the last action on the primary road had been completed, and 8.15am. The secondary roads had not been treated at all.
The Judge found the three-hour gap without action was too long and that, in the circumstances, the defendants should have started on the remaining network by then. Judgment for the claimant although 25 per cent contributory negligence as he said he must have been driving faster than the 5-10mph he claimed, to have sustained the sort of accident he did.
Liverpool County Court, 12 January 2009.