FEWER Somerset roads will be gritted this year but gritters will be still be out keeping motorists safe day or night.

During the winter, thousands of motorists across Somerset drive past gritting lorries on their journey home without a second thought.

Little do they know their hard work saves lives.

The county’s gritting teams have a tough task monitoring weather forecasts each day and making sure they are ready to react when temperatures plummet.

Dedicated drivers from Somerset County Council’s highways team can be called into action at anytime to brave the elements and keep our roads safe from ice and harsh weather.

This year, Somerset County Council announced it won't be sending gritting lorries out to 180 miles of road it treated last year as part of its multi-million pound savings programme.

It has pledged to carry on precautionary gritting of 720 miles of roads - 17 per cent of the total road network and said its emergency response to severe snow or prolonged ice is unaffected.

Councillor John Woodman, cabinet member for highways and transport at Somerset County Council, said the council's decision to reduce the amount of roads being gritted was 'one they had to take not one they wanted to take' and gritters will work hard to ensure the roads are safe.

Speaking at the Dunball Roundabout depot in Bridgwater, Cllr Woodman said:"We have reduced the number of roads we will be gritting this year and that is a very difficult decision for us to take, one that we have had to take not one we have wanted to take.

"But the truth is the vast majority of people's journey's will include some gritted roads and some non-gritted roads.

"The most important thing is to make a judgement about whether it is safe to travel or not to travel, every person needs to do that."

Cllr Woodman said if cold weather hits the county the council has emergency plans in place to ensure roads are gritted.

"If we have another Beast From the East or we get snow on the ground our emergency response has not changed," Cllr Woodman said.

"We will stand up our farmers, our contractors and put our snow ploughs on the front of the gritters and we will clear the network exactly the same as we did when there was a Beast from the East.

"We will still be filling grit bins, we are still going for the big dumping bags full of grit as well and we are working with our parishes and working with our districts to do that."

But Cllr Woodman’s advice to residents driving this winter is simple.

"Always make a judgement on the conditions, if you are not happy to drive don't drive," Cllr Woodman said.

"The most important thing is to look at all the travel information you possibly can, get the most information you can before you make a judgement as to whether or not you feel its okay for you to make that journey this winter."