Accidents caused by mud left on roads by tractors over the last three years have resulted in claims for deaths and serious injuries expected to cost a total of £11.5m, warns NFU Mutual.

As field conditions become wetter as winter approaches, the rural insurer is calling on farmers to take extreme care to avoid tractor and trailer wheels depositing mud on roads.

"The seven very serious claims we are currently dealing with show just how dangerous mud left on roads can be to other road users,” said John Kenny, NFU Mutual’s Chief Claims Manager.

“With field conditions now turning wet and sugar beet harvesting and field cultivation work in full swing, we’re urging farmers to ensure that they do everything possible to avoid leaving mud on the road.

“Very often driver error or excess speed is a major factor in accidents involving vehicles skidding on mud – but it is far better to avoid the potential risk of an accident.

“While most farmers are keenly aware of the risks associated with mud on roads, there is still some confusion about the law in this area and farmers’ responsibilities to other road users.”

He explained that depositing mud on the road is an offence under the Highways Act.

"It is the legal responsibility of the farmer to ensure that every precaution is taken to avoid any mud being carried off the field.

Accepting that in cultivating and harvesting operations some mud will inevitably end up on the road, it is important to make arrangements to remove it immediately.

"If mud is left on roads, warning signs should always be used to alert motorists to the potential hazard.

"It is also important to make sure that people cleaning the road are clearly visible, wearing reflective florescent clothing, and that the mechanical brusher has hazard warning lights."

To help farmers stay safe – and legal - NFU Mutual has prepared the following guidelines to help farmers prevent mud being deposited on roads: · Clean mud from vehicles, as far as practicable, before they are taken on roads · Be prepared to hire in equipment to clean up accidentally deposited mud - check availability in advance · Keep to your own farm roads and minor roads whenever possible · Keep to low speeds – especially when travelling short distance – to help retain mud on vehicle tyres · Keep a written record of your decisions on whether or not to deploy signs and/or to clean the road · If there is a danger of mud being accidentally deposited on roads, use authorised ‘Slippery Road’ signs with a ‘Mud on Road’ sub plate to alert other road users · Make sure signs are positioned to give maximum visibility and warning to other road users · Clean the road as necessary during the working day and always at the end of the working day · Ensure that staff and equipment suitable for the soil and weather conditions are available in case a ‘clean up’ is needed · Where using contractors, ensure that prior agreement is reached on who is responsible for mud on road issues such as signage and cleaning