Farmers and landowners have been issued advice on how to prevent excessive mud being left on roads, which can cause serious accidents.
Prompted by the prolonged period of stormy weather, the firm, which handles claims every year regarding incidents involving mud left on roads, is reminding its Members of their legal obligations so they can minimise the risk of an incident.
The warning comes as new figures from Devon and Cornwall Police show there were 18 collisions between 1 January and 25 February 2014, caused by deposits, including mud, on the region’s roads.
Common sources of the problem are farm vehicles, run-off from fields and animals using the highways, particularly during wet weather. Blocked ditches and drains can also cause flooding which, in turn, leaves mud and debris behind.
The Highways Act 1980 makes it an offence to deposit mud onto roads and the Water Resources Act 1991 (in relation to anti-pollution notices) and the law of public nuisance also have provisions relating to mud on the road.
Even mud from vehicles not belonging to the landowner, for example, a contractor spreading muck on the fields or a milk tanker can still be the landowner's responsibility, if the mud came off their land and they knew about the mud and could have prevented it or cleared it up.
Alan Goddard, Managing Director of Cornish Mutual, said: “We understand how the current weather conditions have made life difficult for farmers and landowners, which is why we are taking this opportunity to remind them of this potential hazard.
“We would urge them to read our advice regarding preventative measures and check they have the appropriate Public Liability insurance cover in place.”
There are a number of preventative measures that can be taken including making sure that the field gateways onto the road are well drained; hard core or chippings can be used around these areas or on farm tracks to reduce the spread of mud.
Tractor tyres can be washed down before going onto the roads and driving at lower speeds can reduce the spreading of muck and mud. Signs warning of “slippery roads” can be used to alert drivers and roads can be cleaned down at the end of the day. Farmers and landowners are also advised to make sure that they have appropriate Public Liability insurance cover in place should the worst happen. Cornish Mutual provides a range of insurance products to indemnify farmers and landowners against their legal liabilities.