The hazards potholes create are well-known to motorists and cyclists; damage to your car or bike and an uncomfortable or dangerous ride. More worrying is potholes have resulted in serious injury or death of almost 400 cyclists over the past ten years. Now, the results of two surveys show the sheer scale of the pothole issue we have on our roads.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) and Kwik Fit each published findings which, together, highlight both the condition of — and the harm caused by — the state of our road surfaces.
Road to recovery
The AIA’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey shows that pothole repairs in England and Wales rose by 330,000 in 2018 to a staggering 1.86million. In fact, councils are fixing a pothole every 17 seconds with last year’s freezing weather much to blame for the decline of the roads.
But there’s hope for improvement as the Department for Transport gives councils over £200million for road repairs, to fix over 1,000 miles of highway — with £50million reserved for potholes and flood measures.
Research into advanced surface materials and reconstruction techniques will continue, such as an asphalt three-dimensional printer researchers at University College London designed to repair road cracks and potholes.
Over six million vehicles suffered damage from potholes with an average garage bill of £108.60 but the ALARM survey shows that motorists in England and Wales have only received £13.5million in compensation—just 2.1% of the total loss.
Kwik Fit’s study on potholes showed that the number of us affected in 2018 increased by 2.9 million to over 11 million. The most common damage is to a vehicle’s steering, suspension, and wheels.
In the last twelve months, 31% of motorists who hit a pothole said they thought it was a puddle because water hid it, 46% said they risked colliding with other traffic if they had swerved around the pothole and 4% admitted they hit a pothole because they were speeding.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who claims the Government is ‘continuing to step up its funding to local authorities’ for pothole repairs said:
“It is now up to highways authorities to innovate and use new technologies to solve the problem.”
Mr Grayling has launched a consultation on increasing the guarantee on utility firms’ roadworks so that if a pothole forms within five years, the company must bring the road surface back to normal.
“Road surfaces can be made worse by utility companies, so imposing higher standards on repairs will help keep roads pothole-free for longer,” said the Transport Secretary.
Last year the AIA claimed it would cost £1.5billion more in funding each year, for the next 10 years, for repairs on local roads to reach a condition whereby they would be cost-effective to manage.
AIA Chairman Rick Green reacted to the news of more government funding:
“It is encouraging that those in control of the purse strings seem to have recognised the value that additional expenditure on roads can deliver. But it’s clear from the 29% increase in the number of potholes filled in England … that much of this has been used for patch and mend [work].
“This doesn’t provide value for money, nor will it improve the underlying structure and resilience of our roads,” he said.
There are steps you can take to both reduce your chances of hitting a pothole and to reduce the damage to your vehicle if run over one:
Check your tyres are at the recommended air pressure because if they’re under or over-inflated, your car is more likely to sustain pothole damage.
Consider winter tyres if you live in an area affected by lots of potholes. The sides of the tyres are often a little larger, and able to absorb the impact that driving into a pothole can cause.
Rain pools in potholes so try to avoid puddles where you can. Drive with caution if dodging a puddle isn’t possible.
Reduce your speed if you’re on a bumpy stretch of road. The faster you’re driving when you hit a pothole, the more damage you should expect.
Potholes can sometimes cause drivers to lose control of their vehicle, so keep your hands at the ‘ten to two’ position on the wheel to stay in command of your car.
If you hit a pothole, stop in a safe place and assess the damage as soon as possible.
Sometimes pothole damage won’t appear obvious straight away, so keep checking your tyres and wheels in the days afterwards. Get the vehicle checked out at your first opportunity if you think your car has suffered damage.
Do your bit by reporting potholes; don’t assume others have reported them and if you want to make a claim, this website will tell you all you need to know.
What condition are the roads where you drive or ride? Have they damaged your bike or car? Have poor roads caused you an injury? Tell us in the comments.