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RAC reports highest number of pothole-related breakdowns in third quarter since 2006

The RAC has recorded the highest number of pothole-related breakdowns during the third quarter since it began tracking this data in 2006.

The poor condition of Britain's local roads has resulted in RAC patrols coming to the aid of a significant number of drivers who experienced damage to shock absorbers, broken suspension springs, or distorted wheels.

Between July and September of this year, the RAC assisted a total of 5,978 motorists experiencing breakdowns caused by wear and tear from defective road surfaces. This number surpasses the previous third-quarter high of 5,398 incidents reported in 2013 by 580 cases. Additionally, it reflects a concerning 46% increase compared to the same period in 2022, when RAC patrols attended to 4,085 breakdowns.

Despite this surge, the July to September timeframe typically does not witness the highest number of pothole-related breakdowns. This infamy is reserved for the colder months of January to March. In fact, the first quarter of 2021 retained the record for the highest number of pothole call-outs in a quarter, with an astonishing 14,827 drivers needing assistance due to this issue.

The recent findings for the July to September 2023 period have also caused the RAC Pothole Index to rise. This index, which tracks the probability of drivers experiencing a pothole-related breakdown, has now reached 1.7. This means that motorists are nearly twice as likely to break down due to the repeated wear caused by potholes compared to 17 years ago.

Notably, the RAC's figures do not include punctures caused by nails, screws, and other factors, even though poor road surfaces may contribute to such incidents. In the same July to September period, RAC patrols responded to 101,000 puncture jobs, representing an 8% increase compared to 2022. This suggests that the condition of the roads may have played a partial role in these punctures.

Analysing garage repair data, the RAC has determined that drivers can expect to pay an average of £440 for repairs if their vehicles are damaged after hitting a pothole, excluding minor punctures. This highlights the financial burden faced by motorists due to the inadequate state of the roads.

RAC Head of Policy, Simon Williams, said: “Our analysis of pothole-related breakdowns is sadly once again showing that the sub-standard state of the country’s local roads is causing a world of pain for drivers, let alone those on two wheels.

“Fortunately, the Government has promised £8.3bn for local highways authorities which should give them the certainty of funding they need to be able to plan longer term road maintenance work. We very much look forward to finding out exactly how the money will be allocated.

“We have long argued that it’s not just a question of filling potholes, it’s about getting the roads in the worst condition resurfaced. Then, it’s vital that more councils start to make greater use of surface treatments which can cost effectively extend the lives of these roads.

Our analysis of government data shows that many are no longer surfacing dressing their roads which partly explains why so many are now peppered with potholes. Our message to government is therefore not just to get the potholes fixed, but to get councils using surface dressing again as this helps seal roads which prevents water getting in cracking the asphalt when the temperature drops to freezing.

“We’ve also asked the Department for Transport to set out guidance for councils on how best to make use of their funding. Roads in better condition need to be kept that way through a combination of carrying out the most permanent pothole repairs possible, with those requiring more attention being surface dressed, while roads that are no longer fit for purpose must be fully resurfaced.

“If this approach is adopted, we believe we will eventually see lasting benefits and a welcome end to the pothole plague drivers have had to endure for far too many years.”


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