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Police chief says too many motorists are ignoring weather warnings

The head of roads policing across Devon, Cornwall and Dorset asked ‘can we have a more literal interpretation of the word essential?’

Too many drivers are ignoring pleas to stay off roads hit by severe weather, a senior police officer has warned.

Thousands of motorists have been stranded across the UK this week due to vehicles being unable to cope with the blast of cold, snow and ice.

Chief Inspector Adrian Leisk, head of roads policing across Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, wrote on Twitter: “Colleagues have been rescuing hundreds of stranded motorists overnight and the icy roads are treacherous.

“Please can we have a more literal interpretation of the word ‘essential’ this morning. There have been so many warnings that this weather was coming.”

This followed a message he sent at 5pm on Thursday, pleading with drivers not to “add to the challenges we are facing” and warning “if we have to rescue you this may put another’s life in danger”.

Devon County Council had warned on Thursday that motorists should “not travel unless absolutely necessary”.

Police declared a “major incident” after hundreds of motorists needed rescuing from the A31, a major route connecting Hampshire and Dorset.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sent a “blunt” message to transport company bosses, who had continued to send drivers out on to the roads despite official warnings to avoid non-essential journeys.

She said: “I saw some branded HGVs in pictures yesterday and given the branding on them I would struggle to say that their transport was unavoidable.”

A spokesman for the AA said 30% fewer journeys were made on Thursday compared to the same day last week.

AA president Edmund King said: “It’s the kind of drop we might see on Christmas Day.

“Almost a third of drivers did get the warnings and took sensible action by not venturing out.

“I think where people did go out they probably didn’t think the conditions would be as bad as they were.”

Thursday was the firm’s busiest March day on record with around 30,000 calls to its breakdown line.

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