Road obstructions and spillages

We try to keep our roads clear of dangerous obstructions and spillages whenever they occur or are reported.

Do it online

Report a road obstruction or spillage

If you prefer, you can tell us about an obstruction or spillage anonymously, but you will miss out on the benefits of having an account such as getting progress updates.

Not all roads are our responsibility

Motorways and trunk roads such as the A1, A1(M), M62, A66, A66(M), A64, A168 (Dishforth to Thirsk) and A19 (north of Thirsk) must be reported to National Highways.

In an emergency

If it's an emergency and poses a safety risk, contact us. Out of office hours, call North Yorkshire Police on 101. If there is danger to life, call 999.

We will make the road safe and clear where obstructions and spillages could cause an immediate hazard. This can be very costly. Wherever possible, we try to recover costs from the person who has caused the problem. 

If someone obstructs the free passage of cars along a highway, they are guilty of an offence and we have the legal power to enforce removal. A magistrates' court can impose a maximum fine of £1,000 for anyone convicted of wilfully obstructing the highway.

Types of obstructions and spillages


An obstruction is anything that could be a danger to road users, or hold up traffic, including:

  • weather-related obstructions, for example fallen trees in strong winds, flooded areas and snow drifts
  • dead animals on the carriageway
  • overhanging trees and vegetation
  • mud on the road
  • debris on the road
  • skips, scaffolding or hoardings, building materials or street cafes which are only permitted under licence
  • advertising boards
  • walls, gates, fences and hedges placed across the highway
  • goods displayed outside shops beyond any private forecourt
  • abandoned vehicles
  • illegal parking on footways and pavements


Spillages affect road surface conditions and can lead to accidents. 

Type of spillage

Likely action to resolve

Oil, diesel, petrol or brake fluid

As much information as possible is needed to enable the incident to be dealt with effectively. For example, an heavy goods vehicle that has been leaking diesel over several miles requires a different response than a very localised incident.

Diesel spillages are generally dealt with by sanding the area and placing signs at the roadside.

Petrol spillages do not usually create the same problem, as it will evaporate readily into the atmosphere.

Sand, gravel and other building materials

Materials such as concrete need to be removed as soon as possible before they set.

Sand or gravel will reduce the road surface resistance to skidding. The road will need to be swept.

Chemical spillage

Before any work is carried out, the materials have to be assessed and the risks and hazards identified.

Hazardous substances, for example, asbestos

There is legislation controlling the transportation, storage and use of hazardous substances. There are different organisations, including the Health and Safety Executive, that enforce this legislation, depending on the business involved and/or where the substances are located.

Dropped loads like steel, glass and containers

Dropped loads can damage vehicles and pedestrians. The action taken to will be dependent upon the type of load. In severe cases, the road may need to be closed until the spillage is safely removed.

Mud on the road - guidelines for farmers and construction vehicle operators

Farmers and vehicle operators who deposit mud on the road are potentially liable for a range of offences and a range of powers are available to the police and the highway authority.

The Highways Act 1980 says: “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, deposits anything whatsoever on a highway in consequence of which a user of the highway is injured or endangered, that person is guilty of an offence.”

The Road Traffic Act 1988 covers situations where a vehicle is driven dangerously on a road. Driving dangerously can include driving a vehicle in a state that could cause danger to others. Punishment for these offences ranges from fines to imprisonment.

Farmers or construction vehicle operators must:

  • be prepared to hire equipment to promptly remove deposits
  • keep to their own farm roads whenever possible
  • keep to low speeds and prevent mud from being deposited by removing any excess before driving on to roads
  • use authorised signs positioned to give maximum visibility to road users
  • clean the road as necessary during the working day and always at the end of the working day
  • ensure that labour and equipment is available and is suitable for the soil and weather conditions
  • where a contractor is used, ensure that prior agreement is reached on who is responsible for mud on road (signs, cleaning etc) and that adequate public liability insurance is in place

Report a dead animal on a road

You can use our online service to report a dead animal on a highway or public land

Regardless of its size, a dead animal on a motorway or trunk road should be reported to Highways England.