For motorists, driving over a speed bump can be both unnerving and uncomfortable. An unexpected jolt, bump, or scrape may lead you to worry if you’ve damaged your car—and you’d be right to have concerns.

New research by Comparison website Confused.com shows that over a fifth of drivers report vehicle damage from driving over speed bumps. They also discovered that, between 2013 and 2015, local authorities paid out around £35,000 in compensation to drivers whose vehicles had sustained damage from speed bumps.

A bumpy ride

The UK has 29,000 speed bumps, humps and cushions—8,516 of those are in London—a bad place for speed bump damage. Between 2013 and 2015, £15,717 worth of compensation went to drivers to cover expenses incurred by damage from one of the capital’s many speed bumps.

Confused.com used the Freedom of Information Act to get data from various councils and also surveyed 2,000 motorists. Here’s what they discovered:

  • 41% of motorists claim speed bumps cause ‘too much’ damage to cars
  • 22% reported that driving over a speed bump caused damage to their car
  • 48% of the incidents related to damaged tyres
  • 33% of the incidents related to suspension damage
  • 27% said speed bumps were ‘ineffective’ at reducing speed
  • 28% said they want road markings and signage for speed bumps made clearer, as they find them hard to spot
  • 27% say speed bumps cause disruptions to traffic flow
  • 23% avoid driving down roads that have speed bumps
  • 58% say speed bumps should be lower
  • 29% said they sped up in between speed bumps
  • 19% don’t slow down for them at all
  • 22% oppose speed bumps due to the constant change of speed they cause—known to be bad for the environment
  • 23% say councils should abolish speed bumps to improve air quality

It confused 17% of those surveyed why councils often choose speed bumps instead of other traffic-calming measures but speed bumps have their supporters. In fact, about half of those surveyed said speed bumps guard pedestrians, with 44% saying they improve road safety.

Councils often place speed bumps in areas where there’s a lot of pedestrian movement. The bumps force motorists to slow almost to a stop, to avoid causing damage to the bumper, undercarriage, or even the steering rack.

Other concerns about speed bumps include the chance of damage to emergency vehicles who may cross them at high speeds. Damage to low-riding vehicles, even at low speeds, is another concern. Yet thorough studies carried by transportation organisations say the benefits outweigh any damages caused.

‘Inverted potholes’

Amanda Stretton, Motoring Editor at Confused.com, said although it’s clear that speed bumps aren’t popular with many motorists, they’re there for a reason. She advised those drivers who think they’ve damaged their cars while driving at a reasonable speed should—if safe—check the height of the bump, to see if they would be eligible for compensation.

“But forking out hundreds of pounds to fix tyres or suspension is a cost we’re sure drivers could do without when the cost of motoring is becoming less affordable as it is. “, she added.

Garages do well from speed bumps, from drivers who bring in their damaged cars for repairs. The Confused.com survey discovered that the average repair cost for damage from speed bump is £141. One garage owner from Islington, Tony Marco, said the lowest parts of the car—the middle exhaust box, the rear exhaust, the oil sump, and all the rubber bushes that move around and flex as you go over the bumps—are where most damage occurs. He added that most people don’t realise speed bumps are the reason for the damage.

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) says the belief that speed bumps make our roads safer is a ‘simplistic notion’.

ABD Director, Brian Gregory said: “Speed humps are nothing more than inverted potholes; they are a danger to all road users.”

Claiming for damage

Most experts say driving over speed bumps the way you’re supposed to and not too often, won’t damage your car. Preexisting wear to the car would decide most damage (such as bad alignment, worn tyres, or weak suspension) or hitting the speed bumps too fast. Yet, if you drive over them often, your vehicle may incur damage, so avoid these areas if possible during daily journeys.

It can be difficult for motorists to make a claim for compensation because a speed bump is a speed-calming measure, not a road defect, but they have size restrictions. Here are the permitted measurements:

Height: 100mm—although the government recommends that they’re not higher than 75mm.
The vertical face should be below 6mm.
The bump should be narrower than 900mm.

If you find you need to make a complaint about a speed bump, you need to contact the area’s council. They might handle your grievance through their complaints procedure, or they may refer your case to their insurers.

If the council refuses to compensate you for the damage to your vehicle, you can take them to court. You can sometimes get free advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau, a law centre, or a solicitor. Don’t forget that some insurance policies offer legal help and some trade unions and motoring organisations offer legal help for their members.

The HM Court Service website has information on making a claim through the county court: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-courts-and-tribunals-service

Find your local Citizens Advice Bureau: www.citizensadvice.org.uk

For information about Highways England: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/highways-england/

Have you ever damaged your car on a speed bump? Do you think the UK should abolish speed bumps or do you want them to stay? Let us know in the comments

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