UK’s pothole plague drives up breakdowns by a fifth

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Repair costs predicted to rise as more than 10,000 drivers left stranded by damaged wheels, tyres and suspension

The number of car breakdowns caused by potholes jumped by a fifth last year, according to new data.

One recovery firm dealt with more than 10,000 pothole-related incidents in 2021, equivalent to 27 breakdowns per day linked to poor road surfaces.

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The RAC said call outs to pothole damage reached a three-year high in 2021 and demanded action to improve the “ridiculous” situation that left some drivers facing repair bills stretching into thousands of pounds.

It estimated that drivers were now 1.6 times more likely to suffer a pothole-related breakdown than when it began tracking such cases in 2006.

The RAC says a new approach is needed to improve pothole repairsThe RAC says a new approach is needed to improve pothole repairs
The RAC says a new approach is needed to improve pothole repairs | Shutterstock

The motoring group released details of its pothole-related call outs ahead of National Pothole Day on 15 January, at the same time as one of Britain’s biggest insurers reported a sharp rise in claims linked to poor road surfaces.

The RAC’s latest figures show that call outs to deal with damaged wheels, tyres and suspension were 19% higher in 2021 than 2020 - which saw a significant drop in traffic levels - but were also 10% higher than in 2019, before lockdown affected driving behaviour.

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Its head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “The rot appears to have well and truly set in when it comes to the country’s roads with our patrols going out to vast numbers of drivers who, through no fault of their own, are breaking down because of the wear and tear caused by potholes. This is ridiculous because it is almost entirely avoidable if roads were maintained properly. ”

Data from insurer Admiral echoed the RAC figures, with it recording a 39% increase in pay-outs for pothole damage over the last five years.

Lorna Connelly, head of claims at Admiral, commented: “Potholes are more than just an inconvenience, they can also cause costly damage to your vehicle.

“Our data shows that the number of claims for damage caused by potholes has increased by 39% since 2016 and the cost will probably only go up as our vehicles become more advanced and costly to repair.

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“January, February and March is the worst time of year for pothole claims, with over 57% more claims made over this period than any other season, as road surfaces become unsettled by cooler temperatures.”

Mr Lyes also warned that incidents were likely to increase in the early months of this year and called for a portion of vehicle tax to be ringfenced to deal with potholes, adding:  “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.”

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