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‘Desperate’ roads lead to record numbers of pothole issues

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More than 4,500 drivers had to call out the RAC to help after their car had broken down following hitting a pothole in the first three months of 2021.

That’s the equivalent of 52 drivers, and is up by more than three times from the last quarter of 2020, the biggest quarterly jump the RAC has even seen.

According to the new breakdown report, 2.4% of all call-outs attended by RAC patrols between January and March were for broken suspension springs, distorted wheels and damaged shock absorbers, the classic symptoms of having hit a pothole. That’s up from 1.6% in the same period of 2020 and the highest proportion seen since 2017.

The RAC said these figures are all the more incredible given road traffic has been much quieter in the first three months of the year due to the ongoing lockdown, warning that if traffic volumes had been at pre-lockdown levels, the figures would be even worse.

Why are our roads in such a bad state?

The RAC said that the figures highlighted the “parlous state” of many roads in the UK.

Which begs the question: why are they in such bad condition?

Poor weather is a big contributor here. Potholes are generally caused by water seeping into the cracks in roads. As the water under the road freezes and unthaws, it causes further cracks and the pressure from cars then leads to the development of potholes. The recent poor weather has only exacerbated the issue, with the RAC suggesting that many roads have been “ravaged” by the cold weather.

However, another issue here is that local and national governments haven’t done enough to fix the potholes before they become bigger, which simply leads to them getting bigger and doing more damage to road users.

The RAC suggested that many councils are stuck in a vicious cycle due to insufficient funding from central government, unable to properly repaid the hundreds, if not thousands, of miles they are responsible for.

Roads that look like the moon

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at RAC, said drivers are now having to use roads that in places resemble the surface of the moon, and suffering from unnecessary ‒ and costly ‒ breakdowns caused by the potholes.

He continued: “Potholes are a sign of broken roads, but they are also a sign of the broken nature of how the roads are looked after and paid for. The UK government and local authorities must break the cycle and commit to doing something differently – if they don’t, all road users will continue to suffer unnecessarily.”

Claiming compensation

If your car is damaged as a result of a pothole, then you may be able to claim compensation to help cover the cost of repairs. 

Who you need to contact here comes down to who is responsible for the upkeep of that road. For example, while B roads are the responsibility of local councils, motorways are looked after by Highways England.

Once you’ve worked out who is in charge of the stretch of road that damaged your car, then it’s worth seeing if they will help out with the repair costs. Be warned, there’s no guarantee of a payout and it can take a while but it’s always worth seeing if you can get some cash back. After all, it’s not your fault that there’s a hole in the road.

In better news for drivers, car insurance costs have dropped by the largest amount in six years.

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