RAC pothole figures 'a watershed moment'

20/04/2021
Chris Ames

Drivers are having to use roads that often ‘resemble the surface of the Moon’, the RAC has said after revealing a 37% year-on-year rise in pothole-related breakdowns in the first three months of 2021.

The motoring organisation said that in the first quarter, despite lockdown, its patrols went to the aid 4,694 drivers who had most likely broken down as a result of hitting a pothole.

This represents a 37% increase on the 3,426 breakdowns in the same period of 2020 for the ‘classic symptoms’ of having hit a pothole – broken suspension springs, distorted wheels and damaged shock absorbers.

The RAC said this was also a three-fold increase in the number of pothole-related breakdowns compared with the last quarter of 2020 (1,461) – ‘the largest rise between quarters the RAC has ever seen’.

In total, 2.4% of all call-outs attended by RAC patrols between January and March were for pothole related breakdowns – up from 1.6% during the same period in 2020, and the highest proportion seen since 2017.

Head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes warned that the problem could worsen as pandemic restrictions are eased.

He said: ‘In many cases, the condition of many roads is now in a desperate state. Many drivers are finding themselves having to use roads that in places better resemble the surface of the Moon and, as our figures show, thousands are suffering from unnecessary and, no doubt, costly breakdowns caused by potholes.

‘In some ways, the quieter roads brought about by national lockdowns could have been an ideal time for councils to start to fix problem road surfaces ready for the arrival of more traffic as restrictions are eased. Sadly, our data suggests this may not have been the case and may also suggest many councils are still simply patching up potholes rather than fixing them properly.’

He added: ‘What is undeniably clear is that all road users, whether on two wheels or four, are paying the price for a lack of long-term maintenance for roads they use regularly. Pots of funding announced annually may help fill some potholes, but they don’t cure the problem over the long term by dealing with underlying major surface defects. Nor do they allow local authorities to plan routine maintenance.

‘Figures as bad as the ones we are publishing today should herald a watershed moment where authorities finally acknowledge the perilous state many roads are currently in and take decisive action to bring them up to a reasonable standard.’

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