This weekend is the busiest for last minute Christmas shopping trips and for people travelling home for the festive holiday; but as a fresh blanket of snow covers the UK there are fears of travel chaos and an increased risk of collisions on the roads.

Yesterday’s blizzards already brought in 331 insurance claims for the AA, a 10% increase overall. Of all claimants, 51% in Scotland and 34% in Wales say their collision was because of snow or ice.

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance advises on how to limit your risk on the roads: “If the police in your area are advising drivers not to travel then it is sensible to heed that advice and monitor the situation locally. During the run-up to Christmas, plan your journey to take account of the latest local forecasts and try to stick to main roads, which are more likely to be gritted.

“If the road surface is icy, our advice is to try to keep a gap of 10 seconds between yourself and the vehicle in front to minimise the risk of you sliding in to the car in front.”

He points out that tail-end crashes, especially at road junctions and roundabouts, are the most common type of winter claim, followed by collisions with parked cars. He adds that cars fitted with winter tyres are less likely to lose traction on snow and ice.

Winter tyres are made from a rubber compound that performs better at temperatures below plus 7 decrees C and tests show that cars fitted with them stop in a much shorter distance on snow and ice than those with conventional tyres. If such tyres are to be used, it is vital that all four wheels are so fitted.

So the message of the moment is to monitor the weather locally, to plan your journeys in advance, try to use main roads, and take it easy on the roads – rushing in such weather will not do anyone any favours!