Drivers have been urged to avoid country roads, or, if they really must travel, plan ahead.

Rural insurer NFU Mutual has warned motorists that severe ice and heavy snow continue to make road conditions treacherous.

The Mutual's Tim Price said: "Rural roads and icy weather require different driving skills – sharp bends, unexpected hazards and changing conditions can all catch out the unwary.

"Although the heavy snowfall may have subsided in some areas, prolonged sub-zero conditions and freezing rain have made countryside conditions treacherous. Black ice is both deceptive and deadly, and many motorists are unaware that some rural routes haven't been treated.

"We are also hearing reports of continued drifting which could leave people stranded in cars in the countryside. Our advice is to avoid rural roads and if your journey is absolutely necessary, plan ahead and adapt your driving."

Whether you’re a native of the countryside or an infrequent visitor, there are tips for rural driving which should help you stay safe:

• Plan your journey before you set off and give thought to locations that might be badly affected and monitor local weather forecasts;

• Leave at least twice as much space as normal between you and the vehicle in front;

• Tell family or friends where you are going and when you expect to get there;

• Tune radios into local stations to get regular updates on conditions and road closures;

• Don’t make harsh or sharp movements, when you brake and accelerate do it slowly and smoothly;

• Drive slowly in as high a gear as possible;

• Keep your windscreen, windows and mirrors clean and free of ice and ensure you have a supply of winter-ready screen wash;

• Keep a torch, blanket, a bottle of water and a chocolate bar or two in the car;

• Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged, and tune into the radio to keep up to date about road conditions.

Insurance industry estimates reckon that, to the end of Thursday, there have been around 13,100 snow-related vehicle collisions, costing an eye-watering £17 million.