Drivers are risking lives by ignoring repeated warnings to stay off the roads in the treacherous snowy conditions, say police.
Chief Inspector Adrian Leisk, head of roads policing across Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, issued a stern warning on Twitter as thousands of motorists were left stranded across the UK.
He urged people to take a “more literal interpretation of the word ‘essential'” when it comes to travel and reminded drivers there had been “so many warnings that this weather was coming”.
“Colleagues have been rescuing hundreds of stranded motorists overnight and the icy roads are treacherous,” he said, adding to his previous warning that “if we have to rescue you this may put another’s life in danger”.
Police had declared a major incident after hundreds of drivers needed rescuing from the A31, connecting Hampshire and Dorset.
More than 100 cars and lorries were also trapped for 17 hours overnight on the A303 between Ilminster in Somerset, and Mere in Wiltshire.
Meanwhile, high on the Pennines, on the M62, the military was called in to help rescue vehicles between Rochdale and Lancashire.
Drivers and passengers spent up to 18 hours on the carriageway, where temperatures were below zero and wind speeds reached 90mph.
Volunteers took hot drinks, food and blankets to those left stranded.
Meanwhile, NHS staff have been praised for taking “extraordinary measures” to ensure patients are taken care of.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said employees had walked miles in the snow, dug vehicles out of drifts and slept in hospitals.
One paramedic in London attended an emergency call on a bicycle.
Mr Steven said: “Once again the NHS is showing that we are there for people when they need us and that’s all down to our staff, so a huge thank you to everybody across the NHS who is going the extra mile for people at this highly pressurised time.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon issued a “blunt” message to haulage firms for continuing to send drivers out despite official warnings to avoid non-essential journeys.
“I saw some branded HGVs in pictures yesterday and given the branding on them I would struggle to say that their transport was unavoidable,” she said.
The AA reported 30% fewer journeys on Thursday compared with the same day last week.
“It’s the kind of drop we might see on Christmas Day,” said AA president Edmund King. “Almost a third of drivers did get the warnings and took sensible action by not venturing out.
“I think where people did go out they probably didn’t think the conditions would be as bad as they were.”
Thursday was its busiest March day ever, with 30,000 calls to its breakdown line.