Driving costs rises as pothole-related breakdowns hit three-year high

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A pothole is pictured on the street of Los Angeles, California February 12, 2016. Nearly two-thirds of Americans would support roadway user fees to help fix the country's crumbling transportation infrastructure, according to a survey to be published on April 28, 2016 that was seen by Reuters.      REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
Potholes can cause thousands of pounds of unnecessary damage to drivers’ vehicles. Photo: Reuters

British automotive services company RAC received a “ridiculous” number of call outs for problems caused by damaged road surfaces last year, as pothole-related breakdowns reached a three-year high in 2021.

These issues can cause thousands of pounds of unnecessary damage to drivers’ vehicles, make using roads uncomfortable, and can be a serious road safety hazard for anyone on two wheels, the organisation said.

RAC got 10,123 call outs for such issues, 19% more than in 2020 and a 10% increase on the 2019 total.

Potholes in roads can cause distorted wheels, broken suspension springs or damaged shock absorbers.

The figures were released on Friday to mark National Pothole Day, which aims to highlight the problems caused by crumbling road surfaces.

“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,” said Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy.

“This is ridiculous because it is almost entirely avoidable if roads were maintained properly,” he said, adding that tax payers deserve roads that are fit for purpose.

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Lyes warned damage linked to potholes will rise even further this spring as “inevitably, we have plenty of cold weather still to come this winter” – potholes can often be caused by rainwater getting into road defects.

He called for “fresh thinking” on tackling the problem, such as ring-fencing a proportion of existing taxation to provide councils with long-term funding for maintaining local roads.

Recent analysis by the Local Government Association found that annual funding for more than 9.5 million pothole repairs has been removed from council budgets in England.

A report by the Asphalt Industry Alliance claimed councils in England and Wales would need to spend a total of £10bn on over a decade to bring all their pothole-plagued roads up to scratch.

A poll of more than 5,600 motorists carried out by Transport Focus last year in August indicated that nearly one in five car and van drivers rated the quality of surfaces on the strategic road network as “poor”.

Almost two-thirds of car and van drivers placed more importance on the maintenance of existing roads than building new roads or adding lanes to existing ones.

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