Reduced traffic wasn’t enough to protect British motorists from potholes last year


The RAC attended almost 1,500 breakdowns that were believed to be caused by potholes in the fourth quarter of last year.

That’s despite reduced traffic levels brought on by national lockdowns and the introduction of stricter ‘tier’ restrictions in the UK.

The breakdown service saw 1,461 call-outs for damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels, representing almost one per cent of all call outs.

These figures are concerning, says the RAC, because they’re almost identical to the same period in the past two years, indicating the quality of road surfaces is not improving.

Pothole breakdown likelihood
Pothole breakdown likelihood

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “As if 2020 wasn’t bad enough for other reasons, nearly 1,500 of our members have also had to endure unwanted, and no doubt expensive, damage to their vehicles caused by potholes and other road surface defects.

“We realise council budgets are under incredible pressure due to the coronavirus, but we badly need the Government to recognise the significance of local roads and take a fresh look at how to fund them.

“The Government’s approach of allocating funding to councils from various pots on an annual basis means authorities are always having to play catch-up by fixing potholes rather than focusing on preventative maintenance.

“We would prefer to see them make five-year funding settlements which would allow councils to make longer-term plans for their roads. This could be funded by introducing a similar scheme to the National Roads Fund, which ringfences money paid in vehicle excise duty by road users in England for the upkeep of major roads.

“Putting aside 2p from the existing 58p a litre duty on the sale of petrol and diesel would generate nearly £5bn of additional funds for local roads over five years. This would surely help to bring our local roads back to a fit-for-purpose state.”

Lyes also warned that with this being a colder winter than we’ve faced in years, coupled with pandemic-induced budget cuts, there’s a risk road conditions could deteriorate further.