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Highway hazards

Highway safety defects

Highway safety defects might include problems such as:

Other highway hazards

The following describes potential hazards that can occur on Staffordshire’s road network. 

Mud or loose material on the road

Mud or muck deposited on the highway perhaps by farm animals and machinery or construction traffic, causes inconvenience to the public, brings the agriculture and construction industries into disrepute and, most importantly, puts at risk other roads users and can lead to serious accidents.

Harvest traffic can mean an increased risk of high levels of mud getting onto the roads and it is essential that those responsible take steps to minimise its impact.

The rules apply for any other material deposited onto the highway, for example; if grain, gravel, bricks or other produce is spilled this can represent just as serious a hazard as mud.

These problems can be reduced by the construction of hard standing areas on private land at gateways or providing wheel washing facilities off the highway. Operative should ensure that any excess materials which might be overhanging are removed before being driven onto the highway.

Operators of muck-spreading machines should ensure the settings are such that manure is not thrown over the hedge/fence on to the public highway. This is an offence which can be prevented.

Water run-off

A landowner is responsible for mud, water and other matter running off fields and on to the carriageway. Under the Highways Act 1980 Section 151, the Local Authority may, by notice to the owner or occupier require them to undertake works to prevent soil or refuse from their land from falling, or being washed or carried, on to the street or into any sewer or gully in it. Landowners or occupiers can ultimately risk receiving fines if they have received a notice under this section of the Act and failed to comply with it.

Pre-planning can sometimes prevent these problems however. On difficult sites, cultivation across a slope (where it is safe to do so) will reduce the problem of rapid run-off.

If mud or water is deposited on the carriageway, then those responsible for the deposit should remove it without delay.

In exceptional circumstances, the Highway Authority may erect a slippery-road sign if we have received a report about the issue and conditions necessitate this, whilst those responsible organise work to complete the clean-up. However, the placing of this warning sign does not automatically absolve those responsible for the mud should an accident occur.

Those undertaking the cleaning-up will require protection at the site of the work by the provision of a suitable warning sign. Where sightlines are poor additional provisions may be necessary.

Section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 states:

“…If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine…”

Section 148 states:

“…If a person deposits on a made up carriageway any dung, compost, or other material for dressing land, or any rubbish, or anything whatsoever on a highway to the interruption of any user of the highway, he is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine…”


Fly-tipping is the illegal dumping of waste on the public highway or other public areas. District / borough councils and the Environment Agency are responsible for removing this waste.

Further information on how to report fly tipping can be found through the local district or borough council's website:

Fly-tipped waste obstructing highway traffic

If fly-tipped waste is causing a problem for traffic on a section of public highway this should be reported immediately online. We will then coordinate a resource to move this out of traffic’s way, usually to the side of the road. In all cases you must always report the fly-tipped waste in the first instance to the local district/borough council as we do not have the facilities to dispose of the waste material. 

Road sweeping

Road sweeping is used to clear roads and footways of leaf fall and other loose material and detritus. This is classed as a street cleansing function and this service is not undertaken by ourselves.

You can request road sweeping using the below links to the district/borough councils:

Road Traffic Collision (RTC)

Our reactive highway inspectors, maintenance operatives and call-out officers are often called to assist police with RTC incidents. Our attendance may involve placing out signs, closing roads or diverting traffic and assisting with moving away vehicle/property debris or cleaning up oil spillages.

Live animals on the highway

Drivers must stop and report accidents to the police if they involving a collision with dogs, horses, deer, cattle e.g. cows, pigs, goats, sheep, donkeys and mules.

These incidents must be reported to the police as soon as possible, whether the animal is killed or not. 

Dead animals on the highway

District/borough councils in Staffordshire are required to provide a service for the removal of dead animals, such as badgers and foxes, dogs or cats from public roadsides and pavements.

The links below provide information on how to report dead animals on the highway to the relevant district/borough council.

This includes wild animals like badgers and foxes, as well as domestic pets such as cats and dogs.

Fallen tree/branch

Our reactive highway inspectors, maintenance operatives and call-out officers are often called to assist with fallen tree/branch incidents only where this affects the public highway and is causing an obstruction to highway users. Our attendance may involve placing out signs, closing roads or diverting traffic and assisting with moving away tree debris.

In most cases of fallen trees which cannot be physically lifted off the highway, officers will remain in attendance until a tree surgeon arrives to cut and clear the tree away.

Weather related hazards

Our highways department is a service which is routinely led by weather related incidents.


The winter season can bring snow and ice to the county’s roads which can cause disruption to highway users. Detailed information on our winter maintenance operation can be found on winter service page.

Strong winds

Strong winds can cause otherwise healthy trees to fall into the live carriageway or cause them to deposit branches and other detritus onto or into the path of moving traffic.

Trees which are dead, diseased or dying are more susceptible to strong winds. For details of how we manage highway trees and for advice and guidance on keeping private trees maintained and how to spot sign of disease or ill health, please see the grass, weeds, trees and hedges page.

Strong winds can also blow over or cause damage to street signs and lighting columns or other highway apparatus or street furniture

Heavy rainstorms

Heavy and torrential downpours can quickly cause flash flooding and create ponding in low spots in the road or in areas where the surface water drainage system has reached its capacity, even in a well maintained system.

For details on how we maintain its network of gullies and road surface drainage systems, see the highway drainage system page.

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