Posted: Tue 23rd Apr 2024

UK’s pothole epidemic worsens, despite mild winter says RAC

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

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The UK is experiencing a growing pothole crisis, with the RAC responding to nearly 8,000 breakdowns caused by deteriorating road surfaces in the first quarter of 2024, marking a 53% increase from the last quarter of 2023.

Analysis from the driving services company shows it’s been far from a smooth start to the year for the nation’s drivers, with pothole-related breakdown numbers up by 9% in the last 12 months from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024.

In this period, the RAC went out to 27,205 breakdowns, 2,299 more than the 24,906 incidents it attended between 1st April 2022 and 31st March 2023.

But the RAC believes drivers may have actually ‘dodged the pothole bullet’ in what is normally the worst three months of the year for them.

Milder weather led to patrol call-out rates dropping by 22% from 10,076 last year to 7,904 in 2024.

During the winter months, sub-zero temperatures normally cause more surface deterioration as water gets into cracks in the road, freezes and expands.

In the first three months of 2024, while there was an average of 121mm of rain – 22% more than normal – the milder weather meant there were only seven days of frost, against the usual average of nine.

This potentially limited the number of brand new potholes forming.

For this reason, the RAC doesn’t believe the decrease in pothole-related breakdowns – damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels – is a sign of road conditions improving.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “While our data shows pothole damage to vehicles in the first three months of this year is lower than it was in the same period in 2023, it’s important not to lose sight of the bigger picture and the ongoing miserable state of our roads. The analysis clearly shows drivers are now twice as likely to suffer a breakdown due to sub-standard road surfaces as they were in 2006.

“While many would rightly say the roads are terrible, we believe they would have been far worse had we not had such a mild winter. We feel drivers have dodged the pothole bullet as the lack of widespread sub-zero temperatures has masked the true state of our roads.

“After all, all the cracks left by years of declining road maintenance budgets can’t easily be filled. Even though the Government has given councils an additional £8.3bn for road maintenance from the cancellation of the northern leg of HS2, we know this is only enough to resurface 5,000 miles of roads – the equivalent of just 3% of all England’s local roads.

“To make the most of this funding, we implore local authorities to focus their efforts on resurfacing the worst roads in their areas rather than pointlessly trying to patch pothole-ridden roads that can’t be saved from further decline. And now is the time for preventative action to be taken, as it’s between the warmer months of April and September when vital surface dressing work can be carried out to extend the life of roads. Sadly, government data we analysed shows 60% of English councils didn’t do any such work in the 2022-2023 financial year.


Pothole-related breakdowns in numbers

Q1 2021 Q1 2022 Q1 2023 Q1 2024
Total pothole-related breakdowns over previous 12 months 28,670 23,584 24,906 27,205
Pothole share of all RAC breakdowns 2.4% 1.5% 1.9% 1.4%
RAC Pothole Index at end of year – likelihood of drivers breaking down compared to 2006, ie 2.0 = twice as likely 1.82 1.59 1.69 1.76


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