Pothole-related breakdowns at three-year high

Published 14 January 2022

Pothole-related breakdowns have reached their highest level since 2018, according to the RAC.

The breakdown company attended 10,123 call-outs - the equivalent of 27 every day - for broken suspension springs, distorted wheels and damaged shock absorbers in 2021.

That represents 1.5 per cent of all of its call-outs, and is 19 per cent more than in 2020 (8,524) and 10 per cent more than in 2019 (9,198).

The RAC has released the data on National Pothole Day 2022, which aims to raise awareness of the condition of Britain's roads. 

Pothole 2

The RAC estimates that drivers are more than one-and-a-half times more likely to breakdown after hitting a pothole today than they were when it started collecting data for its pothole index back in 2006.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes described the situation as "ridiculous" as "it is almost entirely avoidable if roads were maintained properly". 

"With drivers contributing so much in terms of tax to the Government the very least they deserve are roads that are fit-for-purpose," he said. 

The Government has allocated £5 billion for local roads maintenance for the period 2020 to 2025 but this can be used by local highway authorities to repair bridges, resurface roads or other necessary maintenance, not just to repair potholes, and isn't sufficient according to industry experts. 

Pothole Repair

Research from online car marketplace heycar found a big difference in the average cost of repairing a pothole, with one council typically spending just £27, up to a whopping £232.

The research also found councils in England forked out more than £8 million of taxpayers’ funds in 2020 to settle damage claims caused by potholes, with the biggest single claim resulted in a payout of almost a quarter of a million pounds. 

The RAC warned drivers that there may be more pothole misery ahead. 

"Not getting our roads into a decent shape is simply storing up more problems." RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes

Lyes said: “Inevitably we have plenty of cold weather still to come this winter and we fear that by the spring the number of drivers running into problems will rise even further.

"Not getting our roads into a decent shape is simply storing up more problems – and more expense – for the future.

“On National Pothole Day, our message to the Government is clear – it’s time the tide was turned when it comes to potholes and local councils are given the levels of funding they need to get their roads up to a reasonable standard.

"Clearly, promises of one-off pots of cash from the Government to fix the problem haven’t done the trick and we urgently need some fresh thinking."

1What causes potholes?

Standing water and water which has seeped into the cracks and crevices within the road surface freeze and expand when temperatures drop. 

This causes the road surface to rupture and for potholes to form as traffic drives over the weakened areas.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) says this is particularly an issue for poorly maintained roads, which are less resilient and cannot withstand the combination of severe weather and increased traffic.

2How do I report a pothole?

Who you report a pothole to depends on its location. 

If it's on a motorway or major A-road in England you should report it to National Highways (formerly Highways England) which manages these roads. 

Otherwise you should report it to your local council. If you are in Scotland, you should get in touch with Traffic Scotland for major roads or your local council. 

3How much does a pothole repair cost?

The Government puts the average cost of repairing a pothole at £50. 

However, research from Honest John's sister brand heycar found the average cost of repairing a pothole could be as high as £232.

4Who invented National Pothole Day?

National Pothole day was founded by Mark Morrell, a former mayor, who is nicknamed ‘Mr Pothole’. 

He created National Pothole Day eight years ago to raise awareness of the state of the UK's roads and has campaigned successfully for millions of pounds worth of resurfacing works.

Ask HJ

Why has the alloy wheel on my car buckled?

What would cause a 21-inch alloy rim on a Volvo XC60 T5 to start to buckle? Dealer advised this at last MoT and it has never had an accident or hit pothole. Only front offside and four years old at 21,000 miles. Have you ever had reports of other alloy rims buckling ?
This type of damage is typical with a pothole, drain or kerb strike. Sometimes a slow puncture or internal tyre problem will cause a vibration that may bend the alloy. It may be possible to repair the wheel, but in most cases it'll need to be replaced.
Answered by Dan Powell
More Questions
Ask HJ

What's the best car for soaking up potholes?

My local roads are becoming ever more potholed. What's the best car for comfort on poor quality roads?
Citroen tries to focus on comfort with mixed results. The C3 Aircross isn't as comfortable as you'd expect, but the Citroen C4 and C5 Aircross are both very comfortable. Also look at Skoda models – they're usually softer than other VW Group alternatives. Try to avoid cars with big alloy wheels and low profile tyres as these are usually firmer than cars with small wheels.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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hissingsid    on 14 January 2022

Given the level of motoring taxes the state of our third world roads is inexcusable, but the design of many modern cars also contributes to damage from potholes.

Overly firm suspension, stupidly large wheels and stupidly low profile tyres are asking for trouble. Fortunately some manufacturers are at last following Citroen's lead and placing more emphasis on comfort.

NEIL SCARLETT    on 18 January 2022

I agree entirely with these comments. I would also like to add that the majority of potholes I have seen are situated where the original road surface has been compromised by previous works. For example the installation of speed humps, el cheapo high grip surfacing and any where a hole has been dug for whatever purpose.

We can't seem to afford anything in this country, public toilets, roads libraries, even though taxation is very high. I put this down to the financial mismanagement of all governments of all persuasions over the last fifty years. they take our money and spend it on anything other than it was intended for.

If I spent the milk man's money on fags then I would expect no milk the following week, it's not difficult to work out.

We are run by people are incompetent dishonest or boy.

Southern Tyke    on 18 January 2022

I'm married to a Dane so have been driving in Denmark, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany virtually every year for 50 years and before that several holidays in France. I cannot believe the difference in quality of road finishes and repairs, large and small, in these countries compared to UK. Even Belgium, which was like a third world country in the 60's, now has far better roads than us.
In my opinion as a retired surveyor there are three problems with our roads compared to how the Europeans go about it, 1.the aggregate we mix with bitumen is far too large so you don't get a smooth surface - European motorways have a fantastic smooth finish - the Germans on their derestricted autobahns would not put up with the surfaces we have to suffer . 2. water eventually collects between the large chippings used in UK so eventually with freezing water and traffic wear, the surface breaks up and 3.more often than not, the edges of repairs are not finished with hot bitumen so in a fairly short time frame the edges start to deteriorate and soon the whole patch needs redoing. You just do not see this in Europe.
Why do we use larger chippings in our bitumen - cost!

Southern Tyke

TedTom    on 18 January 2022

I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. The times I've seen round holes, but filled in with a square patch, leaving a hole for water to ingress. I thought money was given to councils to do a massive repair program, nothing has changed yet.

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