Increase in vehicles damaged by potholes

22/01/2016
Highways Reporters

The RAC has reported a 24% year-on-year increase in the number of call-outs to vehicles that have suffered damage due to potholed roads and poor surfaces.

Data released shows that RAC patrols responded to 5,010 more incidents involving broken shock absorbers, ruined suspension parts and distorted or damaged wheels in 2015 than they did the year before, potentially indicating that poor road surfaces were to blame. In 2014, patrols dealt with 20,477 of these jobs whereas in 2015 this grew to 25,487.

The single biggest increase recorded was for damaged suspension springs which saw a 42% rise from 13,101 in 2014 to 18,417 last year. There were also 10% more incidents of damaged wishbones – the part that shock absorbers and springs are fitted to – and a 10% rise in faults with vehicle subframes – the rigid structures under a car which support the engine, drivetrain and suspension.

While East Anglia saw the greatest number of pothole-related call-outs with 4,547, it only ranked third across the UK in terms of percentage increase of these faults with 31%. The South East was the worst region overall with a 62% rise as a result of 2,686 incidents. The North East, however, was a close third on 30% with 3,783 incidents.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “Potholes can wreak havoc with vehicles and are therefore understandably hated by motorists. It is very worrying that our patrols have dealt with more pothole-related breakdowns in 2015 than they did the year before because we did not experience a particularly cold winter in either year.

“We know that a number of local authorities increased their spending in 2015 to try to catch up with some of the road maintenance and repair backlog but this evidence indicates that there is still some way to go. In the absence of freezing conditions, which are a major cause of potholes, this suggests that some highways authorities are still losing the pothole-repair fight. We shall only win the battle once sufficient preventative road surface maintenance is undertaken to prevent potholes appearing when the first bad weather arrives.

“On top of the £6bn already promised, the Chancellor made available further funds in the Autumn Statement and whilst this is still not enough to meet the shortfall, it may hopefully mean we will see a decline in ‘pothole generated breakdowns’ this time next year.”

Commenting on the findings, Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) chief executive Howard Robinson, said: “Given the amount of taxation that motorists pay, the increase in the number of vehicles being damaged by potholes is unacceptable. Motorists pay £26.6bn in fuel duty, £25bn for VAT on fuel and a further £6.1bn on other motoring taxes. An annual total of £58bn. In return they have a potholed local road network, damaged vehicles, a black hole of £12bn needed to bring roads up to an acceptable standard and local authorities struggling with ever-reducing budgets being unable to commit to the necessary programme of long-term maintenance.

“The increase in vehicles being damaged by potholes underlines the raw deal that motorists have. Government must address the decades of under-investment in our local road network with proper long-term, ring-fenced funding.”
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