Pothole Britain

By Emma Williams
Pothole Britain

Pothole Britain

Why are our roads so bad?

The AA motoring organization was called out to 631,852 ‘pothole-related incidents’ in 2023, the most in five years. They claim that Britain is in the grip of ‘a pothole crisis’, recently publishing polling figures showing that 96% of the more than 11,000 members it surveyed believed that maintaining roads was the top transport issue that affected them. Edmund King, AA president states that pothole damage is costing Britain’s drivers nearly £500mn a year.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance said: ‘Local authorities don’t have the funds to allow them to carry out the appropriate maintenance interventions,’ adding that it would cost £16.3bn to tackle a repair backlog in England and Wales. The group said last month that roads were at ‘breaking point.’

The government, last November promised an ‘unprecedented’ £8.3bn over 11 years to fund local road maintenance in England saying they wanted to tackle the issues facing ‘hardworking families’ adding: ‘Tackling the scourge of potholes being a prime example.’

Causes of potholes

There are a number of reasons for the pothole problem. Firstly, as our roads age they start to deteriorate, this is particularly the case with roads built in the 60’s and 70’s which are now reaching the end of their lifespan.

Also, varying weather conditions exacerbate the problem. Potholes are caused when water seeps into cracks in the road surface and then freezes. This expands the cracks and makes them bigger. When cars drive over these expanded cracks, they can cause the road to collapse, creating a pothole.

The UK has seen some extreme weather conditions in recent years, which has made the problem worse.

Finally, councils are under immense pressure to save money. This means that they are often reluctant to carry out extensive road repairs, preferring instead to patch up potholes as and when they appear. This is a short-term solution that does not address the underlying problem.

Impact on vehicles

Some potential issues that can arise from hitting a pothole include –

Tyre damage, punctures, sidewall bulges or tyre blowouts if the impact is severe enough

Wheel and suspension damage such as bent or cracked wheels, misalignment, or damage to suspension components.

Steering system problems like misalignment, steering wheel vibration or difficulty in steering.

Exhaust or undercarriage damage if the underside of the vehicle hits the road surface.

Losing control of the vehicle. A cause for many accidents can be attributed to the impact of a driver travelling over a pothole.

How to minimize damage

It is advisable to exercise caution and try to avoid potholes whenever possible and regular vehicle maintenance can also help identify any issues that may arise from pothole impacts.

If you encounter a pothole while driving, it is recommended to slow down and cautiously navigate around it if it is safe to do so. If you suspect any damage to your vehicle after hitting a pothole, it is advisable to have it inspected by a qualified mechanic.

Local councils have been cash-strapped for years due to lower road maintenance budgets, causing roads across the country to fall into disrepair and leaving drivers fighting for compensation when their vehicles are inevitably damaged.

Pothole repairs can be costly for drivers. RAC garage data from December 2023 shows that for anything more serious than a puncture, drivers can expect to have to pay up to £460 if their car needs to go to a garage after hitting a pothole.

If you hit a pothole and it causes damage to your vehicle, the good news is you can attempt to claim back any repair costs through your local council. Firstly report the pothole to the local authority where the incident occurred. You will have to wait for the claim so you’ll probably have to get your vehicle repaired before a claim. The local authority will have details on how to make a claim on their website. If your car is a lease car it is not really any different to any other car and won’t be covered for incidences of wear and tear such as hitting a pothole. It is best to repair the damage though even if it’s just cosmetic as it can potentially affect the end of lease inspection. However, if you take out a maintenance contract with your leasing funder in most cases this will cover you for punctures and damage from potholes and a new tyre will be fitted under the contract.

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) Fair Wear and Tear Guide is an industry-wide, accepted standard designed to protect you and help to reduce or eliminate de-hire charges at the end of a vehicle contract. You can request a copy of this from MW Vehicle Contracts directly. Any other concerns you have or questions about maintenance contracts please direct to your Account Manager who will be happy to help.