Potholes caused twice as many breakdowns as they did ten years ago
The proportion of vehicle breakdowns caused by pothole-related damage has more than doubled over the past decade, after extreme weather conditions “wreaked havoc” on road surfaces.
Each month, thousands of motorists require assistance for issues such as broken shock absorbers or faulty suspension springs, the RAC said.
In the 12 months to June, some 0.9 per cent of its 2.4 million breakdown call outs were associated with potholes – compared with just 0.4 per cent over the same period to June 2006.
Figures show there was a sudden rise in these incidents between 2007 and 2009, when the level of breakdowns rose from 0.5 per cent to 1.1 per cent.
The RAC also said that, in 2013 and 2015, these incidents coincided with peaks in bad weather, as frost and rainfall affected the roads.
Analysis also showed a the rise in extreme conditions over this period coincided with the volume of pothole-related calls.
Adverse weather conditions make the pothole situation much worse, the RAC said, as potholes are created when moisture enters cracks in the road and then expands when it freezes. The holes further increase in size as vehicles drive over them, damaging the structure of the road below.
David Bizley, the RAC’s chief engineer, said: “Very cold and wet winter weather undoubtedly wreaks havoc with road surfaces, but it is poorly maintained roads that tend to suffer the most when water gets in to defects and expands in freezing conditions.
“This is when the quality of a road suddenly appears to go downhill fast. We need a step change in approach from simply filling potholes to regular resurfacing so that we prevent problems occurring.”
The RAC believes “cash-strapped councils” repair the potholes in a hurry, sometimes in wet weather, meaning the problems reappear quickly.
Mr Bizley added: “The condition of our local roads has deteriorated drastically in the last decade.
“This analysis suggests that the quality of the UK’s roads suffered a steady decline from the start of 2007 through to the end of 2009, presumably due to lack of investment in maintenance and resurfacing during worsening economic times.”
Councillor Peter Box, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association (LGA), said councils are fixing more potholes than ever but are “hamstrung by a huge disparity in funding”.
The LGA said the Government has invested more than 40 times more money per mile of motorways and major trunk roads in England than it has for local roads.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance estimated it will cost £11.8 billion and take 14 years to fix roads in England and Wales.
Earlier this year, the Government announced the first allocation of a £250 million-a-year funding boost to remove the problem.
Nearly one million potholes will be repaired in England over 12 months through the pothole action fund, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.
Local authorities in the South West will receive the most money at £8.4 million, with the North East getting the least at £3 million.
A DfT spokesman said: “Well-maintained local roads are incredibly important, to deliver better journeys and keep communities across the country moving and connected.
“We have committed £6 billion to councils in England over this parliament to improve local roads and through the pothole action fund, we will spend a further £250 million over the next five years specifically to tackle the blight of potholes.”