Pothole-related breakdowns up 64% in first three months of 2020, figures suggest

Vehicle breakdowns caused by potholes increased by nearly two-thirds during the first three months of 2020, new figures suggest.

The RAC received 3,426 call-outs for problems such as distorted wheels, broken suspension springs and damaged shock absorbers between January and March.

This was up 64% on the previous three months and 5% on the same period in 2019.

Although last winter was relatively mild overall, severe flooding caused damage to road surfaces in some areas.

The start of the coronavirus lockdown – which came into force on March 23 – means the latest data includes nine days when there were far fewer cars on the road than normal, which likely reduced the number of pothole-related breakdowns.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “The last thing any driver needs on the way to do their essential weekly shop is to suffer a nasty pothole-related breakdown that puts their car out of action, especially with fewer garages open than usual.

“This means the quality of local roads is, ironically, as important as ever.

“In his Budget in March, the Chancellor committed to funding our local roads and it is clear that the economic recovery as the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic will need to be built on solid infrastructure – which of course needs to include good quality roads.

“Moreover, it will also be interesting to see if lower traffic volumes during the UK’s lockdown will help prevent further deterioration of roads as fewer wheels going over weaknesses in the asphalt should contribute to less surface wear.”

Drivers are 1.6 times more likely to break down as a result of a pothole than they were in 2006, according to the RAC.


David Renard, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, insisted that local authorities “share the frustration of motorists about the state of our local roads” but warned that they are “deteriorating at a faster rate than can be repaired by councils”.

He called for devolved infrastructure and transport budgets to ensure funding is allocated in advance for five years.

A report by the Asphalt Industry Alliance published last month found that councils in England and Wales would need to spend a total of £11 billion over 11 years to bring all their roads up to scratch.