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UK's Pothole Problem Worsens: RAC reports a surge in pothole-related breakdowns


Britain's ongoing 'pothole plague' has intensified in 2023, with RAC patrols responding to nearly 30,000 pothole-related breakdowns, marking a significant increase of 33% compared to 2022. This escalation reflects the growing challenge potholes pose to drivers across the country.


According to the RAC, their roadside patrols attended 29,377 breakdowns in 2023 due to pothole damage, averaging about 80 breakdowns per day. The types of vehicle damage frequently linked to potholes include broken suspension springs, damaged shock absorbers, and distorted wheels.

The last quarter of 2023 saw a particularly sharp increase in pothole-related incidents. In the October to December period, RAC was called out to 5,153 breakdowns caused by potholes, the highest number recorded for this quarter since 2017. The issue is expected to worsen during the colder months, typically from January to March. During this 'pothole season', water infiltration into road cracks, followed by freezing and expansion, further exacerbates road surface deterioration.


The RAC Pothole Index, a long-term indicator tracking the state of Britain's roads since 2006, currently stands at 1.70, an increase from 1.62 at the end of 2022. While this figure is still below the all-time high of 3.5 recorded in the first quarter of 2010, it suggests that drivers today are over one-and-a-half times more likely to encounter pothole damage compared to 15 years ago.


This data underscores a pressing infrastructure issue within the UK, highlighting the need for significant road maintenance and repair efforts to address the burgeoning problem of potholes. The increasing frequency of pothole-related breakdowns not only impacts the daily commute of drivers but also signals a broader challenge in road safety and vehicle maintenance.

RAC Head of Policy, Simon Williams, said: “The cracks in Britain’s road maintenance system have once again been embarrassingly exposed as nearly 30,000 RAC members endured pothole problems and potentially very costly repairs in 2023. Potholes are so much more than an irritation – they are a very serious danger to all road users which we fear will only get worse as the weather gets colder during these next few months.


“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.


“Fortunately, the Government has committed an extra £8.3bn of funding to local councils over the next 11 years, which we hope will give squeezed authorities some certainty of cash to help them plan consistent longer-term maintenance. Now we urge the Department for Transport to lay out clear guidance as to how this money should be best used so that councils can actually improve their roads for the future.


“To prevent water damaging the roads in these winter months when it freezes and expands, we implore local highways authorities to completely resurface those in the worst condition and carry out more surface dressing between April and September on roads that are starting to deteriorate. It’s not just about plugging potholes, it’s a question of getting roads up to a reasonable standard and keeping them that way so drivers and indeed those on two wheels can finally feel confident and safe on their journeys.”

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