The number of vehicles damaged by potholes jumped at the of 2019, according to new data from the RAC.
As Britain “celebrates” National Pothole Day on January 15, new figures from the breakdown service show a 25 per cent increase in call-outs in the last three months of the year compared with the same period a year earlier.
Separate research has also revealed the councils with the worst roads, with some paying nearly £250,000 in compensation to drivers whose vehicles have been damaged by potholes.
According to the RAC’s data, more than 2,000 call-outs in the final quarter of 2019 were related to problems caused by potholes – 300 more than in the same period in 2018.
Across the year, it dealt with 9,200 cases of pothole-related faults such as distorted wheels, broken suspensions springs and damaged shock absorbers – a pattern likely to be echoed by other assistance services.
While this was down from 13,000 in 2018, a year which saw a dramatic increase in potholes following the so-called ‘Beast from the East’, it still represented 1.1 per cent of all breakdowns and the RAC’s Pothole Index, suggests there has been little overall improvement. It currently stands at 1.7, down from 1.8 in the third quarter of 2019. This means drivers are 1.7 times more likely to break down as a result of pothole-related damage than they were back in 2006 when the RAC first started collecting data.
Worse to come
Despite the relatively mild winter experienced in the UK so far, the RAC is concerned that the inevitable arrival of colder conditions in the next few months will likely trigger a widespread outbreak of yet more potholes, causing expensive damage to thousands of vehicles.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “We might so far be experiencing a milder but wetter winter than in the last couple of years, but our figures clearly show the problem of potholes has not gone away. Our patrols are still attending on average around one pothole-related breakdown every hour of the day.
“We anticipate the Government will pledge further funds to help cash-strapped councils mend potholes in the March Budget, but such pledges are only chipping away at the problem, and they’re unfortunately not addressing the root cause of why so much of the UK is still characterised by crumbling road surfaces.
“What we need is for central Government to think differently about how councils are funded to maintain the roads under their control. Short-term commitments of cash, while welcome, are not enough on their own – councils need the security of long-term funding so they can plan proper preventative road maintenance.
“Pothole-free roads shouldn’t be a ‘nice to have’ in 2020, drivers should surely be able to expect the vast majority of roads they drive on to be of a good standard, especially given they pay around £40bn in motoring-related tax every year.”
Separate research to mark Pothole Day has revealed some of the worst parts of the country for potholes.
A survey of English councils by LeaseCar found Surrey faced the most claims for damages and paid out the most in compensation in 2018-2019. It received 3,533 claims and paid out a total of £323,222 for pothole-related damage, almost 1,000 more claims that the next nearest council – Hampshire – and £105,000 more in payouts that second place Bury Metropolitan council.
Other major offenders were Hertfordshire, where 2,190 drivers lodged claims, Kent (2,048) and Northamptonshire (2,047), while the big spenders behind Surrey and Bury were Northamptonshire which paid out £214,804 for vehicle repairs, Cumbria (£181,687) and Derbyshire (£168,537).
This article first appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post