Pothole damage to cars in record rise

‘Desperate’ state of roads blamed for thousands of breakdowns, but local councils lack the money to fix them...

pothole in road

An average of 52 drivers a day had their cars damaged by potholes in the first three months of 2021, research has revealed.

A report commissioned by breakdown provider the RAC has revealed that its patrols attended a total of 4694 pothole-related calls from January to March. That’s a three-fold increase on the figures from the last quarter of 2020 and a rise of 37% compared with the same period last year.

Callouts by RAC patrols for broken suspension springs, distorted wheels and damaged shock absorbers made up 2.4% of the total, up from 1.6% in the first three months of last year. Those are the components most likely to suffer as a result of pothole damage. The organisation says if road traffic levels had been at pre-pandemic levels, the figure would have been even higher.

Potholes causing more car breakdowns

RAC data shows that drivers are almost one and a half times more likely to suffer damage as a result of hitting a pothole today than they would have been when it first started collecting pothole data in 2006.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “These figures highlight what is a genuinely uncomfortable truth for both road users and local and national governments: that in many cases, the condition of roads is now in a desperate state. Put simply, we’ve just had the largest quarterly rise in the number of pothole-related breakdowns on record. And the problem risks getting even worse as pandemic restrictions are eased and the roads get busier.”

The RAC believes that councils face stark difficulties in getting the funding they need to fix the roads they are responsible for.

That view is echoed by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), which represents contractors. It says getting roads up to standard is “out of reach” for local authorities in England.

The AIA’s latest survey reveals that, despite budgets for road maintenance increasing by 15% last year, the actual money available is still lower than it was two years ago. It says the inconsistent approach to funding leads to “wasteful patch and mend” repairs being applied to potholes, rather than more proactive repairs, which would keep road surfaces in a good state for longer.

The survey also revealed that most UK roads are resurfaced only once every 68 years on average, and that the bill to fix every local road in England and Wales currently tops £10 billion.

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