A total of 2,830 RAC individual member breakdowns were logged between October and December 2017 where vehicles had broken down due to damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs or distorted wheels, likely due to poor quality road surfaces.
The number of these potential pothole breakdowns was up from 2,547 in the same quarter of 2016 – and suggests the surface quality of some UK roads has already been impacted by the higher rainfall and increased days of frost during the last quarter of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.
The RAC believes the condition of many roads is “hanging in the balance” with the potential for a further sharp rise in the number of potholes by the spring if the weather is particularly wet or cold over the next few months.
There was also a sharper increase in pothole-related breakdowns between the third and fourth quarters of 2017 than there was in the year before.
While an increase is always expected between the two seasons as the weather turns colder, breakdowns rose by 45 per cent between the last two quarters of 2017, compared to 38 per cent in 2016.
“We’ve gone backwards”
Worryingly, the total number of RAC ‘pothole’ faults in all four quarters of 2017 exceeded the equivalent quarters 12 months earlier in 2016.
And October to December of last year also saw the highest ever proportion of fourth quarter RAC breakdowns where poor quality road surfaces were likely be a factor, with 1.2 per cent of all breakdowns associated with such faults; up from 0.8 per cent in 2015 and 1 per cent in 2016.
Previously, the highest proportion of fourth quarter RAC ‘pothole’ breakdowns stood at 1.1 per cent in 2013.
RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “After several years in which the surface quality of our roads appeared to be improving, the latest analysis of RAC breakdown data suggests that for the third successive quarter we have gone backwards.
“We were obviously grateful that the Chancellor announced additional funds for fixing potholes in the Autumn Budget but if we get more ice and snow or further heavy rainfall than normal in the next couple of months, there is a risk of further deterioration of road surfaces and even more potholes appearing in the areas worst affected by the weather.
“Put simply, potholes are a menace for drivers and indeed for all road users.
“They represent a serious road safety risk and anyone who has driven into one will know it can be a frightening experience, not to say a potentially costly one – distorted wheels, broken springs and shock absorbers can be very expensive problems to put right. And for those on two wheels it can be genuinely life-threatening.”
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