As snow and ice wreaked havoc on Cornwall's roads and caused hundreds of accidents and breakdowns, according to Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service at the weekend, rural insurer NFU Mutual recorded its busiest day of the year for motor insurance claims.

Monday morning saw twice the usual volume of accident or breakdown notifications to NFU Mutual, and with the Met Office’s Cold Weather Alert in force until Friday, December 16, the insurer is calling on motorists to take action to avoid endangering themselves and their vehicles.

Ian Maddever, senior agent at NFU Mutual Liskeard, Bodmin and St Austell, has witnessed first-hand the chaos caused by the extreme weather in parts of Cornwall and Devon: "Different driving skills are needed during icy and snowy weather, and these are not skills many possess across the South West.

“While most major routes are regularly gritted and have enough traffic passing through to make the roads passable, lesser used roads in urban and rural areas may be treacherous, with black ice after rain and snowfall being of particular concern.

“NFU Mutual’s advice during this week is to check the weather forecast first. Avoid driving in severe weather unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, delaying trips where possible. If you do need drive, plan your journey ahead of time, making sure your route is passable and sticking to main roads as much as possible.

“It’s advisable to avoid traveling in particularly remote areas, including Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor, as you are less likely to have the support of passing motorists or mobile phone signal should you need it following an incident.

“As a campaigner for rural road safety, NFU Mutual is also concerned that this icy weather will make our countryside roads even more deadly.

“Unique hazards such as blind bends and junctions, narrow lanes and uneven surfaces mean there are well over one and half times the number of deaths on rural roads than urban roads, and these hazards are made all the more dangerous in these conditions. Those who cannot avoid using rural roads during this time should drive slowly and remain wary of sharp bends, oncoming traffic, blind junctions and vulnerable road users like pedestrians.

“Our claims teams are on hand to support with any unfortunate incidents, as always. However, our final plea is to please keep safe and avoid any unnecessary stress for yourselves this close to Christmas."