GRITTERS were out in Huntingdonshire last night for the first time this winter, as highway chiefs urged motorists to drive carefully in falling temperatures. Cambridgeshire County Council s fleet of 36 environmentally friendly gritters carried out a full

GRITTERS were out in Huntingdonshire last night for the first time this winter, as highway chiefs urged motorists to drive carefully in falling temperatures.

Cambridgeshire County Council's fleet of 36 environmentally friendly gritters carried out a full countywide run, as motorists were reminded to make sure their vehicles are ready for icy conditions, such as clearing windscreens, and to drive to the conditions.

A full gritting run sees around 1,100 miles treated, which equates to 250 tonnes of rock salt. More than 40 per cent of the road network is treated - much higher than most councils, CCC says - which means most people live on or near a gritted route.

Cambridgeshire pioneered the use of environmentally friendly pre-wet gritting in East Anglia - a method that is already used in Scandinavia and continental Europe. The pre-wet method means brine is mixed with the salt before it is spread on the road. This means less salt is used. The salt is more likely to stay on the road during windy conditions and is effective on dry roads when ice is expected.

The gritters are fitted with global positioning systems, speed limiters to make sure the rock salt is spread at the right speed and rear facing cameras. Snowploughs can also be attached.

The gritting team takes readings from eight weather stations all over the county giving an up-to-date report on weather conditions.

People can log onto the county council's Internet site (www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk) to find out the latest information about the roads and where gritting has taken place.

David Groom, the council's area maintenance manager, said: "The vehicles are some of the best in the country and drivers are on call 24 hours a day to go at a moment's notice. We ask motorists to play their part too by making sure their vehicles are safe to drive and cleared of ice and snow on lights and windows as well as drive to the conditions.

"Although we grit many roads, especially those heavily used or travelled along by school buses, motorists should never assume a road has been treated."

Road Safety Officer Debbie Maith said: "We all have got used to driving on roads that are dry and not icy, so now is a good time to refresh your memory on driving in the winter.

"Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out and carry a screen scraper and de-icer. Also remember that dazzle from winter sun can be dangerous, so keep a pair of sunglasses handy.

"In winter conditions motorists need time to react safely to icy road conditions. Cut your speed, don't brake suddenly, drop down a gear to let your engine help with the braking and, above all, anticipate possible problems ahead. Give yourself that time by travelling more slowly than usual and by thinking ahead.