A recent survey conducted by the RAC has revealed that frustration with the poor state of local roads in Britain has reached its highest point in nine years.
Half of the drivers surveyed, accounting for 49%, listed the condition of local roads as their top motoring concern, making it the single biggest issue of the year by a considerable margin.
This level of concern marks a record high since the RAC first started collecting drivers' views on local road conditions in 2015. The previous high of 46% was recorded in 2021. Following local road conditions, the cost of fuel was the next significant worry, cited by 42% of drivers.
The deteriorating state of local roads is particularly worrisome to older drivers, with 55% of those aged between 45 and 64 listing it as their primary concern. This number rises to 59% among drivers aged 65 and older.
According to the RAC study, two-thirds of drivers have experienced a decline in the condition of the local roads they regularly travel on in the past 12 months. This percentage has risen from 60% in the previous year's report, indicating the most substantial increase since 2017. Additionally, only 4% of drivers believe that local road conditions have improved over the last year. The main factors contributing to this decline are poor road surfaces, cited by 97% of drivers, as well as faded road markings (61%), litter (35%), and poor signage visibility (34%).
The dire state of the roads has forced many drivers to take sudden and evasive actions. About 35% of drivers reported having to swerve quickly to avoid a pothole, inadvertently crossing into another lane or onto the other side of the road. A significant majority, 69%, stated that they had to slow down abruptly to drive over a pothole, while 37% admitted to maintaining a greater distance from the vehicle in front to allow for more time to react to road surface problems.
While drivers held slightly more positive views about the condition of motorways and high-speed dual carriageways compared to local roads, many still expressed frustration at the deteriorating quality. This year, 11% of drivers ranked the condition of major roads as their top concern, up from 8% in the previous year's report. Among those who frequently use motorways and high-speed roads, 44% claimed that the condition has worsened over the past year, a significant increase from 38% in 2022. The worsening road conditions were primarily attributed to deteriorating surfaces (81%), though faded lane markings (46%), roadside litter (39%), and poor signage visibility (28%) were also contributing factors.
The survey also highlighted the dissatisfaction of drivers regarding road repairs. A significant 81% of drivers felt that roads were not resurfaced to a high enough standard, and an equal proportion believed that resurfacing was not done as frequently as it should be. The disruption caused by maintenance work was another point of frustration, with 74% expressing annoyance at frequent roadworks on the same road and 72% noting that these works frequently overrun.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance's (AIA) annual report for 2023 further supported these concerns, indicating that local councils in England and Wales continue to face a significant shortfall in funding for road maintenance. The latest Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) report, published in March 2023, revealed that the total amount of funding needed to address the backlog in road maintenance work has increased to over £14 billion, up by 11% from the previous year.
RAC Head of Policy, Simon Williams, said: “Many drivers will be wondering why so many potholes appeared on the country’s local roads in the absence of a particularly cold winter. Sadly, a long-term lack of funding for maintenance and repair work means our roads are in a such a fragile state that it only takes a little rainwater getting into existing flaws followed by some sub-zero temperatures for them to break down further.
“We have to bring the ongoing deterioration of our local roads to an end by giving councils the certainty of funding they need to be able to plan proper maintenance programmes which include resurfacing roads that have gone beyond point where they can be patched up.
“This is why we continue to call on the Government to ringfence 2p from every litre of existing fuel revenues over a five-year period which will give councils the funds they need to be able to plan proper maintenance programmes.
“We have raised this issue with the Secretary of State for Transport and urged the Chancellor in our Autumn Statement submission to shake up his road funding policy, because as it stands the £26bn collected from drivers is currently just another form of general taxation.
“We believe a change in funding strategy is long overdue, not least because England’s major roads receive seven times what local roads are given, despite the fact there are seven times more miles of minor roads.
“It is plain wrong that drivers who contribute billions in tax every year have to put up with roads that are so far from being fit for purpose.”