pothole repairs

Pothole-related breakdowns have soared by nearly 40 per cent this year

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The RAC has reported a 39 per cent increase in the number of drivers falling foul of potholes on UK roads.

New breakdown data shows that RAC patrols went to the rescue of 10,076 drivers who had faced pothole-related breakdowns in the first three months of the year.

Damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels – issues most likely caused by poor road surfaces – accounted for more call-outs than in any other three-month period since January to March 2021. In addition, the number of pothole-related breakdowns more than doubled from the 4,915 seen in the fourth quarter of 2022.

The RAC also saw a 14 per cent spike in wheel changes compared to the same period last year. While some of these jobs were likely due to punctures from objects such as nails and screws, the increase points towards further deterioration of the UK’s road surfaces caused by December’s extreme freezing conditions, the body said.

It estimates that drivers are now 1.6 times more likely to break down due to the repeated wear caused by potholes than they were 17 years ago, which is when it started collecting detailed breakdown data.

RAC roads spokesman Simon Williams said: “The high number of call-outs our patrols have attended in the first three months of the year – and the enormous increase compared to a year ago – is nothing short of scandalous. Drivers are telling us that the UK’s local roads are in a worse state than ever and it’s hard to disagree looking at some of the craters that litter so many of our carriageways.

“It’s not right that drivers who are struggling to make ends meet are having to fork out for new tyres, wheels, suspension springs and shock absorbers simply because our roads have been allowed to fall into such a dire state of repair.

“Councils are not obligated to pay compensation to drivers who have suffered damaged to their vehicles after hitting a pothole. They will only consider doing so if the pothole has been picked up in their routine inspections or has been reported by a member of the public. This is why we urge everyone who spots a nasty hole in the road to report it via the RAC website or to the local authority directly.”

According to a report in March, more than £14bn in central government funding would be needed to fix the backlog of repairs needed on British roads.

It also showed that local authority highway teams in England and Wales only received around two-thirds of what they needed to stop local roads from further deterioration last year.

Despite a small increase in overall highway maintenance budgets recently, less is being spent on the carriageway itself and rising costs due to inflationary pressures mean engineers have reported being forced to postpone or cancel road schemes to make savings.

Recent analysis by the Local Government Association showed government funding for maintaining England’s motorways and major A roads was 31 times higher per mile than for repairing local roads last year.

“It’s impossible to see a way back from where we are without the government finally recognising there’s a problem and coming up with a new way to solve it,” Williams added.

The RAC urged the government to ringfence a proportion of fuel duty revenue for the maintenance, repair and improvement of local roads.

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