Potholes cost drivers £915 million in repairs

Date: Friday 23rd March 2018

IN these days of mind-bending technology, one would imagine that it would be fairly straightforward to develop some new road surface polymer that would retain its tensile strength during the heaviest use, perhaps even give and return to its usual shape, etc, etc …

Nope. We can’t even fill a pothole without it somehow transmogrifying into something twice the size and three times the depth with 24 hours. The Romans built roads in 314AD which are still intact today; there is a junction in Newark which was built last year which is now mostly holes. New research lays bare the financial burden which is being placed on the nation’s motorists by the condition of the road network. A study for Kwik Fit has found that over the last year, potholes have caused damage to vehicles costing a total of £915 million to repair.

This is an increase of 34 per cent on the figure of £684 million two years ago. The average cost of repairing damage to components including tyres, wheels, suspension and bodywork has risen only slightly — from £108.60 in 2016 to £111 this year. However, the number of drivers whose vehicles have suffered damage has skyrocketed over the last 24 months — from 6.3million drivers a year to 8.2million — leading to the total bill for repairs increasing by £231 million.

A total of 70 per cent of drivers say they have hit at least one pothole a week over the last 12 months, with a quarter hitting one every single day. Drivers in the north west of the country have the worst experience, with over a third of drivers suffering a pothole impact on a daily basis.

Drivers give a combination of factors as the reasons for hitting potholes. 88 per cent cited road or weather conditions, such as the pothole being hidden by a puddle or it being too dark to spot, but many (47 per cent) also said they had to make a deliberate decision to hit the pothole as avoiding it would have compromised their own safety, and that of other road users. Almost one in 10 drivers admitted that the impact was their own fault, as they were either not paying attention to the road surface or driving too fast to stop in time.

A quarter of drivers who have hit potholes over the last year have suffered costly damage to their car, with the most common repairs being to tyres (4.2 million), wheels (2.7 million), suspension (2.4 million) and bodywork (1.2 million).

Drivers overwhelmingly believe that the nation’s roads are deteriorating, with 76 per cent saying that the road surfaces on their most frequently made journeys are in a worse condition than five years ago. This mirrors the findings of the ALARM report from the Asphalt Industry Alliance, also published today, which reveals that one in five local roads are now classed as structurally poor — a 20 per cent increase on last year.

The condition of the road network is having an impact on driver behaviour, some aspects of which are likely to make the situation even worse.

One in eight drivers say they drive a longer route than the most direct journey as it has better road surfaces, thus adding unnecessary wear and tear to both road and vehicles 1.5million drivers say the poor road surfaces have caused them to switch their car to a more rugged vehicle such as an SUV or 4x4, while one million have bought a cheaper vehicle which they don’t mind getting damaged.

The impact on vehicles has also led to drivers changing their car maintenance habits.