RAC warns number of motorists affected by potholes just rose by a record amount

Darren Cassey, PA Motoring Reporter
·2-min read

The ‘desperate state of UK roads’ has been highlighted this week by a huge rise in the number of motorists calling breakdown patrols for pothole-related issues.

The RAC reported its biggest-ever quarterly increase for breakdowns related to suspension springs, distorted wheels and damaged shock absorbers, which are classic symptoms of drivers hitting potholes.

Its figures show 4,694 drivers called them for breakdowns relating to these issues over the first three months of the year, which is the equivalent of 52 per day.

This is a massive increase on the final quarter of 2020, when 1,461 drivers suffered these breakdowns. When compared to the first quarter of 2020, it’s a 37 per cent increase – a number the RAC calls ‘all the more stark’ because most of the first quarter this year was spent under lockdown conditions.

A car passes a pothole in a road near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire.

The RAC Pothole Index, which measures the long-term condition of UK roads by adjusting figures to compensate for adverse weather, also increased in the first quarter of 2021. It’s the first rise since early 2018, indicating that road quality is declining.

The breakdown service shared its fears that ‘many councils remain stuck in a vicious cycle, unable to properly repair the hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of roads they are responsible for’.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “These figures highlight what is a genuinely ‘uncomfortable truth’ for both road users as well as local and national governments – that in many cases, the condition of many roads is now in a desperate state.

“Back in January we feared the colder winter risked causing further extensive damage to the roads, and it’s clear this is now exactly what has happened. 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.”

On a more positive note, the RAC’s Pothole Index shows that the likelihood of breaking down as a result of hitting a pothole has been on a downward trend since its high in 2009.